It kind of comes out of nowhere.
“I started seeing someone.”
Johnny doesn’t hear Ten at first. They’re sitting on their couch watching kpop choreo videos - a semi-regular occurrence, given that they are on the same club dance team - and Johnny has been completely engrossed in a live performance of Taemin’s Move. He’s trying to figure out if there’s a way their team can incorporate choreography like that into their next performance. Johnny probably couldn’t pull it off, but maybe someone like Taeyong can. Ten definitely could. He has the perfect body for it.
Johnny feels the man in question poke his arm, trying to get his attention.
“Oh,” Johnny says, turning to face Ten. “Sorry, what?”
“I said I’m seeing someone.” Ten’s face is calm, but out of the corner of his eye Johnny notices him worrying at a hole in the blanket he’s using. “That guy I met at the club. Chris?”
Ten meets a lot of guys at clubs, but Johnny thinks he remembers him mentioning a Chris. “The one you met a few weeks ago?”
“Yep,” Ten says, popping the ‘p’ slightly. “We’ve been kind of fooling around, but yesterday he asked if we could make it official.”
“Wow,” Johnny replies, “that’s pretty big.”
Ten shrugs. “I guess. I dunno. I’m not sure how it will work just yet, but he’s sweet, so. I’m giving it a shot.”
Johnny hums, thinking. In the entire time they’ve known each other, Ten has never seriously dated anyone. Actually, now that he’s thinking about it, Johnny realizes that Ten has never even casually dated anyone - the closest he’s come to a relationship is sleeping with someone more than once. And their friendship, of course, but as much as their mutual friends like to tease, Ten and Johnny have never actually been dating.
Johnny feels a tug in his gut at the thought of having to share his best friend. But this is a big step for Ten - he wants to be supportive.
“Congratulations, man.” He grins and pats Ten’s thigh. “I’m happy for you.”
Ten’s eyes flit to Johnny’s hand on his leg and away again. He quirks a grin. “Thanks. Would you mind if I brought him over here every once in a while?”
“Of course not. If he’s important to you I want him to be comfortable here too.”
Ten just nods at that before turning back to the TV. “This is some dance, huh?”
Johnny lets him change the topic and turns back too. “Yeah, it is. Like - how does he get his body to move like that?”
When Ten doesn’t respond Johnny looks over at him, only to find that Ten is fixing him with an inscrutable look. Johnny frowns. “What?”
Ten sighs and mutters something under his breath in Thai before responding in English. “Nothing. I’m pretty tired. I think I’m going to bed early.”
“Oh, okay. Goodnight.” Johnny just watches him pad off to his room, still frowning. Ten doesn’t use Thai around him very often, only when he’s particularly upset or tired. Johnny considers going after him to check in, but decides against it - maybe this was a bigger step for him than Johnny realized, and he just needs his space. He settles back in to watch the rest of the video, though he finds himself less focused on the dance and more focused on thinking about the type of man Ten would find interesting enough to date.
As much as Ten’s new relationship status occupies his thoughts that night (he loses a little sleep over it, he admits, but only because the situation is so novel), Johnny kind of forgets about it over the next couple of days. Between midterms, rehearsals, and the chaotic weather of an unusually early Chicago winter, he and Ten are pretty busy. Over the course of the next week they don’t get a chance to hang out, only seeing each other at group rehearsals, or in passing as one of them leaves the apartment for an early start to the day and one returns from a late night in the library.
So when he returns to their apartment in the middle of the day one day - technically he has econ, but the midterm was Tuesday and he’s talked himself into skipping so he can get some sleep - he’s more taken aback than he should be by the sight of a stranger on their couch.
“Um,” Johnny says intelligently. He checks the door - unit 127. Correct. He thinks of the number of coffees he’s had today - only 4, so this is unlikely to be a caffeine-induced hallucination. And yet, there is a stranger on his couch. “Hello?”
The stranger turns to him, face bright and open. “Oh! Hello. You must be Johnny. Ten’s told me so much about you. I’m Chris.”
It all floods back into his sluggish, sleep-deprived brain then - Ten is seeing someone, Ten met Chris at a club and decided to go steady, Ten asked if he could bring him to the apartment sometimes.
“Oh. Chris.” He needs to use words with more syllables. “Right. Yeah, Ten mentioned you. I’m Johnny.”
Chris laughs like Johnny has just said something funny, his brown eyes crinkling at the corners. Some part of Johnny’s brain notes that he has dimples and is inordinately annoyed about it. “Yeah, I know. The roommate - slash - best friend - slash - dance partner.”
“I don’t know about dance partner.” Ten joins them from the kitchen then, two bubble teas in hand. “Johnny’s alright with choreography, but never let him freestyle if you value your eyesight.”
Chris laughs again as Ten hands him a bubble tea and joins him on the couch. For some reason Johnny’s brain fixates on the drinks. Ten never makes Johnny bubble tea. In fact, he always complains that it’s far too much work and that he can’t ever cook the bubbles right anyway and it’s just so much better when Johnny makes it, which Johnny always does, even though he knows Ten is perfectly capable. It’s kind of their thing, and seeing Ten so cavalierly make bubble tea for this guy Johnny has only just met annoys him further.
Dimly, he registers that Ten is no longer smiling, instead looking at him with confusion. “Johnny? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” Johnny replies without thinking, his brain on autopilot.
“Okay,” Ten hedges, “it’s just that you’re still standing in the hallway and you look like someone just killed your cat.”
“If anyone had a cat, it would be you.” Johnny knows he sounds distracted - he can’t figure out how to stop looking at where Ten and Chris’s knees are touching long enough to actually walk into their apartment.
Ten rolls his eyes. “Whatever. Stop acting weird and get in here already. We were just going to watch some HGTV and make fun of people’s bad decorating ideas. Get a bubble tea and sit down.”
It’s that thought - the idea of going into the kitchen, making his own bubble tea, and then having to sit on the other side of the room from Chris and his annoying dimples and his knee touching Ten’s - that snaps Johnny out of his stupor.
“Actually, I’m pretty tired.” He quickly steps into the room, shucks his shoes and jacket, drops his book bag on the hook by the door. “I actually came back for a nap. You guys have fun though.”
He notices Ten watching him closely. He is giving Johnny a look that is part concern, part… whatever that was on his face the other night, when he first brought Chris up. It’s too much for Johnny to decipher, so he just shuffles off to his room.
Before he can get to his door, Chris calls after him. “It was nice to meet you!”
Johnny turns, hesitates. He knows the correct response is you too, but for some reason the synapses between his brain and his mouth don’t seem to be firing correctly.
“Yeah,” he says, and he has just enough wherewithal to notice Chris’s baffled expression and Ten’s furious one before he escapes into his bedroom.
Johnny has a lot of friends, but many of them are completely insufferable, so he decides to ask Jaehyun about it when they’re in line for drinks before their daily coffee shop study session.
“Have you met Ten’s new boyfriend?”
Jaehyun looks up from whoever he’s texting to give Johnny a look. He doesn’t say anything.
“What?” Johnny asks, defensive.
“I just didn’t know they were using ‘boyfriend,’” he responds. He slips his phone into his pocket and focuses on Johnny fully. “The way Ten described it, it seems pretty casual.”
“I’ve seen Ten do casual. His version of casual is sleeping with a guy two weeks in a row. He’s never brought anyone home before.”
Jaehyun squints. “You sure do seem to know a lot about Ten’s dating life.”
Johnny frowns, gesturing with his hands in his coat pockets. “Of course I do! We’ve been best friends for the past, like, three years. Don’t you know about Jungwoo’s dating life?”
Jaehyun scowls at that. “I know more about Jungwoo’s dating life than any other human should know, but that’s because he doesn’t know how to be subtle. Or discreet. Ten is very good at being both of those things. It takes a pretty observant person to pick up on his habits.”
“Sure,” Jaehyun responds flatly, “so what’s the barista’s name?”
Johnny looks at the man taking orders behind the counter. His hair is straight and black and parted down the middle like always, his standard brown apron crisp, his nametag too small to read from where they are in line.
“That’s different,” Johnny says, defensive again.
Jaehyun fixes him with an unimpressed look. “His name is Doyoung, and you should know because one, we come here almost every day at the same time and he’s always the one working the cash register, and two, I’ve been pining over him for months and have asked you multiple times for advice on how to ask him on a date.”
Johnny hesitates, caught out, before falling back into the safety net of teasing. “That’s pathetic.”
For some reason Jaehyun actually laughs at that, loudly enough that everyone in the vicinity turns to look, including Doyoung the barista.
“Pot, kettle, black,” Jaehyun says finally, still grinning like Johnny has just said the funniest thing he’s ever heard. Johnny finds no part of this amusing.
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” he asks, but Jaehyun just shakes his head and turns to face forward again.
“I’m not going to tell you. You need to figure this out on your own. All I’ll say is that you need to talk to Ten about this if it’s bothering you so much.”
“It’s not bothering me. When did I say it was bothering me? I literally just asked you if you’d met him.”
Jaehyun rolls his eyes. “Well, I have, and I think he’s nice, and sweet, and more considerate than you’ve ever been, and as far as I can tell everyone who has met him agrees. So, again - if something about him is bothering you, you need to talk to Ten about it.”
Johnny is silent as he thinks it over. He supposes Jaehyun is right - other than that initial conversation, he hasn’t talked about this with Ten at all. Maybe that’s why something feels off. He and Ten are so honest with each other, know each other really well, and it’s unnerving to have a new factor - Chris - disrupt that.
“You’re still pathetic,” Johnny says after a moment. Teasing Jaehyun is the closest he will ever get to telling Jaehyun that he’s right, and he knows that Jaehyun knows that. They’re near the front of the line, within earshot of Doyoung, so he keeps his voice low. “We’ve been coming here for, what, six months? And you still haven’t asked this guy out?”
Instead of the whining or fuck off that Johnny is expecting, though, Jaehyun just turns and looks at him, considering. The silence is more unnerving than any insult would have been. When Doyoung calls out “Next customer, please,” Jaehyun grins in a way that is slightly frightening before approaching the counter.
“Annyeong, Doyoungie,” he says politely in Korean, as he always does.
“Annyeong, Jaehyun,” Doyoung responds in kind, ringing up Jaehyun’s memorized order. “How are you doing today?”
“Fine,” says Jaehyun. Then - “Doyoung, would you like to go out to dinner this weekend?”
Johnny is sure his expression is just as shocked as Doyoung’s, though he hopes he’s not blushing nearly as much. Doyoung flounders for a moment before replying, “Dinner? With you? As a friend, or…?”
“As a date.” Jaehyun sounds incredibly calm, a warm smile on his face, but Johnny can see where his hands are shaking at his sides. “With me. But only if you want.”
Doyoung is silent for another split second before his shocked expression gives way to a shy smile. “Yes, Jaehyun. I would like that very much.”
Johnny can only stand there, mouth agape, as Jaehyung and Doyoung quickly exchange numbers, Jaehyun promising to text. When they’re done Jaehyun turns to Johnny, his face incandescent with happiness and just the slightest bit of smugness.
“Pathetic, huh?” he says with a grin. “Your move, Johnny Suh.”
Jaehyun is right, but Johnny’s self-proclaimed biggest fault is that he has a hard time taking people’s advice. So when they’re done in the coffee shop he doesn’t go back to the apartment to talk to Ten, instead fleeing to the beach, where he spends a few hours listening to music and people watching. He just needs to… let himself think, for a while, and there’s something about Lake Michigan that really soothes his soul.
As he sits on a bench overlooking the water, the wind stinging his cheeks, his mind races with an incoherent jumble of thoughts: their upcoming dance team performance, Ten and WinWin’s solo, Doyoung’s smile when Jaehyun asked him out, the stats homework he hasn’t started yet, the way the temperature drops as the sun sinks behind the buildings at his back, Ten making bubble tea for Chris. He’s not really trying to think of anything in particular, just letting his mind wander, but he has a niggling sensation that there’s something in his brain that deserves more attention.
He’s just... too tired to figure it out just now.
Eventually the sun sets enough that the wind coming off the lake gets too biting for even Johnny’s native midwestern blood, so he heads back to campus for rehearsal. He’ll be early, he knows, but today he kind of feels like he needs the warmth and comfort of the dance studio. Despite Ten’s jab about his dancing, he’s always found comfort in the challenge of learning choreography, of getting in sync with the people around him.
He is early, but when he gets to the studio Ten and WinWin are already there practicing. They’re going through a dance they’ve been planning for the last few months - a modern dance duet, though most of their groups’ dancing tends to be more hip-hop oriented. Johnny remembers Ten bringing up the idea of it to him a few months ago.
“I like our normal stuff, but I kind of want something that challenges me, you know?” he’d said one night as they’d shared a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Ten had looked distracted as he’d passed the pint to Johnny over where their legs were tangled on the sofa, his mind clearly already working to think through some of the moves. Johnny had shaken his head as he’d accepted the ice cream.
“Only you would need to find something more challenging than singing live during fast-paced hip-hop performances. You’re right, you’ve really been slacking.”
That had snapped Ten fully back to their conversation, and he’d grinned as he kicked at Johnny’s leg.
“Shut up. Maybe it isn’t so challenging for some of us, old man.”
“You wound me!” Johnny had kicked back at Ten in retaliation, starting a kicking war that had ended with a bruised leg for Johnny and a not-insignificant amount of ice cream on their couch.
Since then, though, Johnny hadn’t seen any of the work Ten and WinWin had done on the dance. And he’s kind of glad for it, because seeing it now is -
Well. The word “breathtaking” comes to mind.
You would never have known that modern dance was new to either of them. Johnny wonders how much time they’ve spent practicing this - it must be hours upon hours, because they’re moving together perfectly. From what Johnny can infer so far they’re meant to be mirror images of each other, each one following the other’s movements in tandem. But then WinWin breaks the synchronization to reach a hand around Ten’s body, and Johnny thinks maybe they’re lovers, two halves of the same whole.
All Johnny knows of modern dance is what he’s seeing right now, so he has no idea how he’s supposed to interpret it. He’s happy just to take it in, gently lowering himself to the ground so as not to draw attention to himself and interrupt them.
As Johnny watches the two of them dance, the words of the song wash over him - Isn’t it lovely, all alone? Heart made of glass, my mind of stone. He listens to Billie Eilish sing, and watches Ten’s face in profile as he stretches his arms up as if reaching for something.
For some reason, it makes him think of their initial conversation about Chris.
It must have been a big deal, both for Ten to agree to date someone and for him to tell Johnny about it. Ten always puts on a front of being cool and sure of himself, but Johnny has seen him at some of his more vulnerable moments, and he knows that Ten is much more emotional than he seems. And how has Johnny repaid that vulnerability? By being weird and dismissive for basically no reason at all.
Heart made of glass. Johnny has been an idiot.
It’s a short song, so it finishes quickly - more quickly than Johnny would like it to, honestly; he feels like he could watch Ten dance all day. As the notes fade out, Winwin reaches out to caress the back of Ten’s head and pull him into a loose embrace. It’s so, so beautiful, and Johnny finds he has a lump in his throat. He doesn’t want to ruin the atmosphere, but Johnny has an overwhelming urge to show his appreciation for this impromptu private performance.
“Bravo! Bravo! Encore, encore!” He goes for a whisper-scream in the hopes that it will be less jarring, but Winwin still jumps adorably. Ten looks in his direction, confused until he realizes it’s Johnny, and rolls his eyes.
“Oh my god,” he says, clearly trying to sound annoyed, but Johnny can see a hint of a smile playing at his lips. “How long have you been sitting there, you creep?”
Johnny tries not to act like he was just on the verge of tears and grins. “Long enough. Hey, that was some pretty decent dancing you guys were doing there.”
True to both of their characters, Ten preens at the compliment while Winwin blushes.
“It’s all been Ten’s idea,” Winwin says quickly in Korean, which is how Johnny knows he’s really embarrassed. Ten scoffs and hits Winwin’s arm with the back of his hand.
“Stop that. Both of us have been working really hard on this. Don’t you dare sell yourself short.”
Winwin, unbelievably, flushes deeper at that, but he’s saved from responding when his phone rings. He mumbles some unnecessary excuse and rushes to grab it from across the studio, leaving Ten to look after him, shaking his head.
“Ah, Winwin,” Ten sighs, walking over to sit down next to Johnny, “too humble for his own good. He’d let Kun compliment him.”
Johnny chuckles. “Yeah, but it’s a little different when it’s your boyfriend, I guess.”
They sit in comfortable silence for a moment, watching Winwin talk on the phone. Judging by the look on his face, it’s Kun on the phone - Johnny shouldn’t really be surprised that Kun is calling Winwin when he’s probably on his way to the studio right now for their group rehearsal.
Kun and Winwin have been practically attached at the hip ever since they started dating the year before. Although, Johnny thinks, he would probably call his boyfriend all the time too, if it made his face light up the way Winwin’s is right now.
Well - that, and if he was gay. Johnny’s never had a girlfriend who he’s really loved, or who has loved him in return. At least, not enough to inspire the feelings Kun and Winwin have for each other.
Johnny becomes acutely aware of Ten’s arm lightly brushing his, and he turns to look at his friend. Ten has a soft smile on his face as he watches Winwin. It makes Johnny’s stomach twist slightly, though he’s not entirely sure why. Ten must feel Johnny’s eyes on him, because he turns to look at him. Whatever Ten sees in Johnny’s expression makes the smile slide off of his face.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, voice full of concern.
Johnny clears his throat. “It’s nothing. Well, no, it’s not nothing. I’m just - I’m sorry for being so awkward about Chris the other day. I was tired and stressed, but that’s not an excuse.”
Ten is quiet for a moment before he responds. “I could tell that it bothered you. Like, more than just because you were tired. Why?”
He’s looking at Johnny with that piercing, unreadable expression again. Johnny sighs, suddenly unable to meet Ten’s eyes, and he studies the floor instead.
“I guess… it’s just weird. No, not weird. Different. You’ve never really dated anyone before, so I guess when I got home and saw how close you guys were it just caught me off guard.”
Johnny glances back at Ten, who for some reason looks amused. At Johnny’s questioning glance, he just says, “You’ve never dated anyone either. At least not since we’ve known each other.”
Johnny frowns. That’s not exactly what he expected Ten to take from the conversation, but he realizes that Ten is right. “Yeah, that’s true. I don’t know. I guess that just shows this is all kind of new territory for both of us, right?”
Ten nods, but doesn’t say anything more, which Johnny takes as acknowledgement.
“The point is,” he continues, “I’m sorry. I know this is a big deal for you, so I’ll try not to be so weird about it next time.”
Ten gives him a small smile. “Thanks, Johnny. It’s important to me that you two get along.”
Johnny just smiles back at Ten, laying a comforting hand on his knee. He lets Ten’s smile wash over him, already feeling better - Jaehyun was right about needing to talk it through, though Johnny is still never going to tell him that. After a few seconds Johnny takes his hand back and stretches, as if to release the tension of the moment from his body.
“Anyway,” he says, “I meant what I said earlier too. About you and Winwin. I know you’re pretty much good at everything you do, but that was incredible.”
Ten grins, the tops of his cheeks flushing in a rare show of bashfulness. “We have a lot to work on still,” he replies, “but I think it’s coming along pretty well.”
Johnny grins back - he loves seeing Ten like this, and he can’t help but continue to lay it on thick. “I’m serious, dude! You were amazing. You both were. It was so intimate. When Winwin was holding you at the end I swear I was this close to tears.”
As Johnny talks, the expression on Ten’s face changes slightly - he still looks pleased, and he still has that charming flush on his cheekbones, but he’s also kind of looking at Johnny like Johnny has sprouted another head.
Johnny frowns. “What?”
Ten just shakes his head. “You’re pretty unbelievable, you know that?”
“Uh,” Johnny says, bewildered, “for some reason that doesn’t feel like a compliment. Did I say something wrong?”
Before Ten can reply the studio door bangs open, startling them both. Haechan and Yangyang crash into the room, clearly in the middle of some sort of convoluted game of tag or keep-away or something - Yangyang is waving something around, running from Haechan, who is yelling at him in rapid Korean. They’re followed by a few other members of their dance club, albeit at a more sedate pace, who are all too used to their antics to even bother trying to put a stop to whatever is going on.
Ten laughs. “Well, I guess that means rehearsal is starting.” He looks back at Johnny and pats his arm. He’s smiling again, but he looks almost rueful. “Thanks again. I mean it.”
“Sure thing,” Johnny replies faintly, but Ten has already gotten up to walk over to Haechan and Yangyang, either to stop them or egg them on. Johnny is still confused - he thinks he’s righted things with Ten, but that look that Ten keeps giving him is throwing him off. He shakes his head as if to clear it. He can deal with Ten’s crypticness later. It’s enough to know that they’re okay - at least for now.
When Johnny’s alarm goes off the next day he seriously considers smashing his phone against the floor. He settles for hitting snooze twice before finally groaning and opening his eyes.
He lets himself lay in bed for a moment, taking stock of his body. Already he can tell that his quads are going to be killing him today - their rehearsal had gone later than usual the night before, and the dance they’re working on ends with a move that requires them to go into a half split. Johnny has always thought himself to be pretty limber, but with how he’s feeling this morning - ugh. Maybe he needs to do more yoga or something.
He checks the time on his phone: 20 minutes to get ready for his 9 am bio class that he shares with Ten. Speaking of Ten - he listens carefully, but he doesn’t hear any noise coming from their kitchen. That means Ten is probably still sleeping. Johnny knows Ten always has a hard time waking up the day after a particularly hard rehearsal, and when Johnny had gone to bed last night Ten had still been practicing choreography in their living room.
Johnny gets up and stretches - wow, okay, his quads and his hips are going to give him problems today - and puts the kettle on for coffee before padding off to Ten’s room to wake him up.
Johnny should probably be nice, because Ten is probably way more exhausted than he is, but he decides to prioritize his own amusement over Ten’s comfort. Which is why he quietly opens Ten’s door, slips into his room, and then jumps on his roommate to shake him awake.
“Rise and shiiiiiine,” he sing-songs, poking Ten through the covers, “it’s bio tiiiiiiime!”
“What the fuck?” responds a bleary voice that is not Ten’s.
Johnny yelps and scrambles away, rolling off the bed in the process. From his new position on the floor he sees Chris’s face pop up to peer at him from over the side of the bed. A moment later Ten’s face joins Chris’s, looking startled. Neither of them, Johnny notes, are wearing shirts.
“Johnny?” Ten says, his voice still rough with sleep. “What the hell are you doing?”
Johnny is frozen for a moment before he responds. “Uh… waking you up for bio?”
Ten and Chris stare at him for a moment. Johnny wishes he could absorb into the carpet and disappear.
“Okay,” Ten prompts, “I’m up now.”
Johnny jerks into action. “Right!” He scrambles up off the floor and towards the door. “Right. You’re up. And Chris is up. Hi Chris, by the way. I’m going to go… coffee. Bye.” He ignores the twin looks of shock on Ten and Chris’s faces as he flees the room, slamming the door behind him.
Johnny leans against the door for a second, mortified. He’s woken Ten up that way dozens of times, but since Ten has never dated anyone, he’s never needed to check for another person in the bed before.
He’d just promised Ten he wouldn’t be weird around Chris anymore, and what’s the first thing he does? Jump into Ten’s bed while Chris is in it. Shirtless. And where Ten is also shirtless. Johnny realizes something and looks down at himself - he had also slept shirtless last night and hadn’t put anything on before going to wake Ten up. Again, not unusual for the two of them, but with Chris in the equation - well.
Johnny has certainly made a memorable second impression.
A few minutes later, Johnny is meticulously scooping coffee grounds into his French press - fully clothed - when he hears the door to Ten’s room open. He looks up to see Chris, who is smiling at him awkwardly. Chris has also gotten dressed in the interim, but Johnny feels his face heat, still embarrassed. He clears his throat.
“Hey,” he says, gesturing with the spoon he’s holding. “Coffee?”
Chris hesitates for a moment before responding. “Sure.”
Johnny nods and scoops a little more into the French press. Out of the corner of his eye he can see Chris walk over and sit down at their counter, but Johnny focuses on the coffee. He needs this moment of routine to prepare him for whatever conversation is about to happen. He pours the now-boiled water over the grounds, stirs the mixture, deposits the spoon in the sink. Once he sets a timer for the coffee to steep, he braces himself and looks up to face Chris.
“Hey,” Johnny repeats, unsure of how to start.
Chris smiles at him - not enough for his cheeks to dimple, Johnny notices. “Hey.”
Johnny clears his throat again. “Uh… so. Sorry. If I’d have known you were over I wouldn’t have… done that.”
Chris just raises an eyebrow. “Do you wake Ten up like that often?”
“Um, sometimes?” Johnny is slightly confused as to why Chris is asking this question. “Only when he’s particularly tired. It annoys him, and he’s - funny when he’s annoyed.”
God, he hopes Chris doesn’t notice the catch in his answer. He had been about to say Ten was cute when he was annoyed, which is true, but he figures Ten’s boyfriend wouldn’t appreciate that particular description, given the circumstances.
“Oookay,” Chris says slowly. He pauses for a moment. As he opens his mouth to speak again, Johnny’s timer goes off.
“Ah, timer!” Johnny says, slightly louder than necessary. He affixes the lid to the French press, depressing the plunger with more care than usual. He’s using the routine as an excuse to delay having to hear whatever Chris was about to say next, he knows. Johnny pulls two mugs down from the cupboard - his favorite touristy Chicago mug for himself, and his second-favorite Mickey Mouse mug for Chris, in a show of goodwill - and focuses on pouring the coffee before sliding Chris’s mug over to him and finally making eye contact again.
Chris grasps the handle of his mug and jerks his chin towards the now-empty French press. “None for Ten?”
Johnny frowns. “Ten doesn’t drink coffee in the mornings. There’s still some water in the kettle for his tea.”
“Oh,” Chris says, “that’s weird. He had an iced coffee when we went out the other day.”
“Oh,” Johnny echoes. He doesn’t know what else to say. Well, he could correct Chris and point out that hot brewed coffee and iced coffee are technically two different coffee experiences, but he figures he’s dug himself into a deep enough hole with Chris this morning without being a total coffee snob.
They sip their coffee in awkward silence for a moment before Chris speaks again.
“Well,” he continues, “um. Anyway. What I was going to say before was… isn’t it a little weird for you to like. Jump into your roommate’s bed to wake him up?”
Johnny was embarrassed before - still is embarrassed, really - but now he’s irritated too.
“I don’t know,” he replies, keeping his voice purposely light, “Ten has never said anything about it bothering him. And like I said, I wouldn’t have done it if I knew you were there.”
Chris gives him an odd look. “Are you two dating or something? Exes?”
“No!” Johnny says quickly. “No no no. I’m straight. We’ve just been friends for three years, so we’re… comfortable, I guess? Bros.”
Chris’s voice is calm, but Johnny doesn’t think he’s imagining the hint of ice in his response. “Bros who jump into bed with each other half-naked.”
The last of Johnny’s embarrassment melts away at that, leaving only irritation in its wake. Chris is being obnoxious and making this out to be a bigger issue than it really is. Johnny gathers himself for a moment, mentally crafting his response. He thinks he shouldn’t go with his first instinct, opting instead for something he knows won’t alienate Chris and piss Ten off.
“Look,” he says, hoping he sounds placating, “I’m really sorry for this morning. It won’t happen again. Even when you’re not around.” He gives Chris a self-deprecating half smile, trying to turn it into an inside joke.
Chris just raises his mug to his lips. “I think that would probably be for the best,” is all he says before taking a sip.
Johnny tightens his grip around the handle of his mug. Was that a threat? What the fuck? Who does this guy think he is? Well - Johnny supposes that he’s Ten’s boyfriend, so he maybe can see a little bit of where Chris is coming from.
Still, though. He’s treating Johnny like some sort of competition, when Johnny had literally just told Chris that he and Ten had never dated. And that he was straight. And anyway, shouldn’t Chris leave it up to Ten to decide who can and cannot be in his bed, platonically or otherwise?
Luckily, Ten chooses that moment to emerge from his room. He’s bundled up for the day in a practical cream turtleneck sweater and slightly less-than-practical ripped skinny jeans. He eyes Johnny and Chris warily as he approaches the kitchen.
“Getting along?” he asks cautiously. Johnny opens his mouth to reply in the affirmative, but then Ten places a casual hand low on Chris’s back and his words stick in his throat.
Chris has no such hesitations, turning to smile at Ten - the dimples are back. Johnny decides he hates the dimples.
“Of course,” Chris says, frustratingly cheery. He holds up his mug. “Johnny made me coffee.”
“Oh, the Mickey Mouse mug.” Ten turns to look at Johnny, his face all mock-seriousness except for a smile playing around the corner of his mouth. “He must really like you.”
Johnny’s irritation fades at Ten’s expression. He knows then that he made the right choice in playing nice with Chris, even if he does ask annoying and unnecessary questions. He smiles back at Ten. “Yeah, we’re getting along okay.”
Ten grins fully at that. “Good!” He turns back to Chris. “I’m going to make some tea and walk to class with Johnny. Let yourself out?”
Chris’s eyes flit to Johnny when Ten mentions tea, which makes Johnny feel inexplicably smug.
“Sure,” Chris responds, eyes back on Ten. “Sounds great.” He then puts his mug down, takes Ten’s face in his hands, and kisses him.
Johnny’s stomach clenches at the brazen display of affection. They’re in the kitchen, for crying out loud. Johnny tries to take a long drink of his coffee. It’s still slightly too hot, so he ends up choking on it a bit.
Luckily neither Chris nor Ten seem to notice - Ten just hums into the kiss before pulling Chris’s hands off his cheeks and leaning back.
“Handsy,” he says, but he’s grinning, a flirtatious glint in his eye.
“Oh, look at the time!” Johnny blurts, his voice slightly louder than necessary. “Sorry to rush you, but we need to leave soon if we don’t want to be late to bio.”
Ten doesn’t appear to notice Johnny’s unusual behavior, rolling his eyes and walking around the counter to make his tea. It doesn’t escape Chris, though, who peers at Johnny suspiciously. Well, whatever. He shouldn’t have been making out in Johnny’s kitchen. In front of his coffee, for God’s sake.
Johnny manages to avoid further eye contact with Chris by busying himself with cleaning out the French press and transferring his coffee to a travel mug. Johnny has mostly managed to cool off by the time they’re ready to go, and he’s prepared to declare the situation salvaged, all things considered.
That is, until they’re walking out the door, when Chris calls out, “Have a great day, honey!”
Ten laughs, a little embarrassed, but clearly not displeased. “What’s gotten into you this morning? So sweet. You too.” He gives Chris a final wave before walking into the hallway.
Johnny turns to see Chris smiling his stupid dimpled smile. He salutes to Johnny with the Mickey Mouse mug. “See you around, Johnny.”
Johnny just smiles weakly before he walks out of the apartment and closes the door behind himself. He doesn’t just hate Chris’s dimples, he decides. He hates Chris too.
“Hey Kun,” Johnny says, approaching the library booth with a smile. He’d spotted Kun when he’d entered the library and decided that he actually didn’t want to study alone today. He doesn’t usually hang out with Kun - completely understandable, given that their dance club has 20-something members - but Kun has always been friendly when they do interact, so Johnny figures it’s not weird to want to spend some time with him.
(The fact that Kun is close friends with Ten and has probably also met Chris is, of course, a coincidence.)
Kun looks up at Johnny with wide eyes and a baffled expression. “Hi Johnny.” He looks past Johnny like he expects to see someone behind him, and frowns when he doesn’t. “Uh… what’s up?”
This interaction is turning out to be slightly more awkward than Johnny was expecting, but he just grins wider, hoping it makes him look friendly instead of manic. “Mind if I join you? I was just looking for a place to go over my anthro notes.”
Kun looks around the library, no doubt at the many other empty booths and tables, before responding with a hesitant “...Sure. Of course.”
Johnny slides into the booth, pulling out his notes and ignoring Kun’s eyes on him. This isn’t that weird, right? He and Kun know each other. They dance together, sort of. They’re in the same circle of (Korean-slash-Chinese-slash-anyone who speaks the language) international student dance club friends, which includes Ten. Johnny’s a friendly guy. It’s not weird to want to get to know his best friend’s friends a little better.
Johnny spends about five minutes attempting to read his anthro notes and trying to ignore the awkwardness rolling off of Kun before he gives in and asks the question that, if he’s honest with himself, really brought him here.
“Hey Kun? Do you know Ten’s boyfriend?”
Kun looks up, his expression clearing immediately of all of his confusion, like he was expecting this. He closes his book with an efficient snap and focuses all of his attention on Johnny.
“Chris? Yeah, we’ve met a couple of times. Why?”
Johnny is a little taken aback and, frankly, intimidated by the rapid shift in Kun’s demeanor, but he powers through. “Uh… well. I was just wondering what you think of him.”
“I think he’s really nice,” Kun replies carefully. He pauses. “Ten says you don’t seem to like him, though.”
Shit. Well, maybe he hadn’t been able to hide his irritation as well as he thought he did after their encounter the other morning. But Kun doesn’t need to know that.
“What?!” Johnny replies. His voice is just slightly higher than normal. He clears his throat. “No way! I mean, we’ve had a couple of… weird encounters, sure, but we get along great!”
Kun just levels him with a look that reminds Johnny of his mother. And damn, is it effective. Johnny caves.
“Okay, fine, maybe we… don’t get along so great. What did Ten say, exactly?”
Kun sits back and crosses his arms. “He didn’t go into detail. Just said that you two had an awkward moment the other morning and that the tension was so thick he couldn’t breathe.”
Johnny rolls his eyes. “Ten is such a drama queen. It wasn’t that awkward.” He pauses. “Well, maybe it was that awkward. But it’s not my fault! Chris is the one who was acting all weird about my completely normal bro behavior.”
Kun raises one eyebrow. “Completely normal bro behavior?”
“Well,” Johnny says, suddenly self-conscious, “sometimes Ten doesn’t wake up on time for class. And you know how he’s extra grumpy in the mornings. So sometimes I… jump on top of him to wake him up. It’s c- funny.”
Kun raises both eyebrows at that, and they disappear under the bangs of his silver hair. “Okay. So you did this the other morning and Chris found out?”
Johnny winces. “Chris may have been in bed with Ten at the time. And he may have been the one I jumped on.”
Kun manages to hold a straight face for all of two seconds before he’s sent into a fit of laughter. He’s silent, because they’re in a library, but it’s still annoying. Johnny definitely doesn’t find it as funny as Kun seems to think it is. He can feel himself flushing with embarrassment.
“Yeah yeah, laugh it up,” he grumbles, slouching lower into the booth. “I didn’t come here to be ridiculed.”
“I’m sorry,” Kun says, taking off his glasses to wipe his eyes, “it’s just. You think jumping into your roommate’s bed to wake him up is ‘completely normal bro behavior.’ And you’re surprised that Chris got mad at you for it.”
“It is completely normal bro behavior!” Johnny exclaims. “You, like, jump on Winwin’s back all the time, even though he hates it!”
“Sicheng and I are dating,” Kun points out.
“Oh.” Johnny deflates. “Well. I guess you have a point. But this isn’t about me, this is about Chris and how I seem to be the only one who doesn’t like him.”
Kun has mostly stopped laughing, but he still looks amused, half-smiling. “Okay then. Why don’t you like him?”
Johnny opens his mouth to answer, then closes it again. He thought he’d had all these great reasons lined up, but now that Kun has asked him he’s drawing a blank.
“Well. He, uh.” Johnny thinks of Chris’s dimpled smile. “He’s, like. Happy all the time. Too cheerful. It’s suspicious.”
“Sooo… you don’t like him because he’s a happy person?”
“It’s not just that,” Johnny insists. “He’s also weirdly possessive. Ten has never complained about the way I wake him up and now Chris comes into the picture and tells me to stop? Like, I get it, Ten is a catch, but Chris needs to let him make his own decisions, you know?”
Kun raises his eyebrows. “You think Chris is ‘weirdly possessive’ because he got annoyed that another man apparently jumps in bed with his boyfriend on a regular basis?”
Johnny blinks. “Well when you put it like that it just sounds ridiculous.”
“Because it is,” Kun replies. “It is ridiculous.”
“Look,” Johnny says seriously - he’s glad Kun seems to find this whole thing so amusing, but he needs to cut to the chase. “I just don’t think Chris is as great of a guy as everyone seems to think he is. I mean - why do you like him?”
Kun hums and leans back in the booth. “For starters, I actually think it’s nice that he’s so happy all the time. You know how Ten can get, all in his head, especially about dance - and rehearsals have been pretty intense lately. Chris has been able to cheer him up before he gets too far into a funk.”
“Huh.” If he’s honest, Johnny has noticed a slight shift in Ten’s approach to dance. The fact that he’d done his extra choreography practice at home is one example - usually he stays at the studio far too late, sometimes forgetting to come home at all before his classes the next day. “Okay, I’ll admit that maybe I was… too quick to judge there. But that’s not the only thing that’s bothering me. What else do you like about him?”
Kun sighs and leans forward onto the table, resting his head in a cupped palm. “Johnny. Stop this.”
“Stop what?” Johnny responds, indignant. “Stop caring about my best friend’s wellbeing and how his new boyfriend might impact that?”
“No,” Kun says patiently, like he’s speaking to a child, “stop this. Looking for things that aren’t there. Everyone in our sub-unit of the dance club has met Chris and likes him. More importantly - no, let me finish -” he raises his voice a little, cutting Johnny off before he can interrupt, “more importantly, Ten seems to like him. He seems happy, Johnny. It’s a… welcome change. I think things have been pretty rough for him lately.”
Johnny is truly taken aback at that - he hadn’t even noticed anything was wrong. “What? Why? He hasn’t said anything to me about it.”
Kun looks uneasy all of a sudden, breaking eye contact with Johnny, leaning back, running a hand through his hair. “You’d have to ask Ten about that. It’s not my place to say. But I do know that him starting to date a nice guy like Chris is the perfect solution to the problem he was having.” Kun frowns, giving Johnny a quick once over. “Or at least, I thought it was. I may have to rethink some things.”
Johnny has no idea what that look was about, and he doesn’t have time to unpack… all of that. Actually, he doesn’t really know what to say at all. The news that Ten has been unhappy lately has totally thrown him for a loop, and he feels even more shitty than he did before - not just because he seems to be the only one with misgivings about Chris, but also because he hadn’t noticed the apparent distress Ten was in.
Some best friend he is.
“Johnny,” Kun says gently, snapping him out of his thoughts, “this is going to sound harsh, even though I don’t mean to be. But… have you considered that if you’re the only one who has an issue with Chris that it might have more to do with you than with him?”
Again, Johnny finds that he’s at a loss for words. It is a little harsh, but - well. Kun is good friends with Ten too. Kun had noticed something was wrong with Ten when Johnny hadn’t. Johnny is forced to admit that there is a chance Kun is right.
He has no idea how to put his jumbling, swirling thoughts into words, so all he says is, “Maybe.”
Kun gives him a sympathetic smile. “Just think about it. Really think about it. And remember that I’m here to talk to you if you ever need to sort some things out, okay?”
Johnny just nods. He feels like maybe there is something Kun is trying to tell him without telling him, but he needs to work through his own tangled thought processes first.
“Thanks, Kun,” Johnny says. “Seriously. This was helpful.”
Kun gives Johnny’s hand a friendly pat. “Any time, Johnny. I mean it.”
The idea of Ten going through something and not telling Johnny about it weighs on his mind for the rest of the day. What was the problem? Why hadn’t Ten said anything? More importantly - why hadn’t he said anything to Johnny? They’ve been friends - best friends - for more than three years now. Ten is the first person Johnny seeks out when he’s having issues, and he thought he had been that person for Ten in return.
Johnny wants to feel betrayed, but mostly he feels sad. Clearly something about his behavior had made Ten not want to approach him with this. And yet, Ten had talked about it with Kun. (Well, Johnny assumes Ten talked about it with Kun. It’s totally possible that Kun had just known somehow, with his Mom Friend Superpowers.)
Most distressing of all, it’s apparently a problem Chris could solve. Chris - the newcomer, the dimpled interloper - and not Johnny. The thought leaves a heavy feeling in his chest that he can’t shake all afternoon.
Johnny doesn’t bring it up with Ten until much later that evening. They’re both sitting on the couch in their usual post-takeout dinner haze, Ten stretched out with his feet in Johnny’s lap, Johnny’s thumb idly rubbing back and forth over his ankle. There’s a K-drama on tv that neither of them are really watching - Ten because he’s on the verge of sleep, Johnny because his mind is still racing with thoughts of his earlier conversation with Kun. He has half a mind to give up the topic and let Ten sleep. But he knows that he himself won’t be able to rest until the situation is resolved. Johnny squeezes Ten’s ankle.
“Hey, Ten?” he says softly. “Can I ask you something?”
Ten inhales deeply through his nose and looks at Johnny. He must have been closer to sleep than Johnny thought - his eyes are half-closed, his expression bleary. The sight makes Johnny’s chest squeeze with fondness.
“Sure,” Ten replies, rubbing his eyes. He must see something of the anxiety Johnny feels in his expression. “Everything okay?”
Johnny takes a deep breath. He’s hyper aware of where his hand is pressed to Ten’s leg. “I feel like I should be asking you that question.”
Ten frowns. “What do you mean?”
“I talked to Kun today. He said you’d been going through something lately.”
All of Ten’s sleepiness seems to disappear at that. His eyes widen and he sits up straight, pulling his feet out of Johnny’s lap and curling into himself. Johnny infers two things from that reaction - one, that Kun was right and something had been wrong, and two, that whatever it was, Ten didn’t feel comfortable talking to Johnny about it.
Johnny misses the weight of Ten’s legs over his.
“What did he say?” Ten asks carefully.
“Only that,” Johnny reassures him. “He said it was your problem to talk about if you wanted to. And I can see that you don’t, so I won’t ask what was - or is - wrong. But I do want to know… why didn’t you say anything to me?”
Ten doesn’t respond right away, biting his lip and messing with a loose thread on his sweatpants. Actually, Johnny notices, those aren’t Ten’s sweats, they’re his. Idly, he thinks he must have accidentally put them with Ten’s clothes when he last did their laundry. Ten’s voice pulls him out of his reverie.
“To be honest…” Ten starts, then stops. He sighs. “To be honest, I didn’t talk to you about it because I didn’t want you to know.”
Johnny’s heart sinks. “Why? Was it something I did? Something I said?”
Ten laughs ruefully. He has a small, sad smile on his face when he looks up at Johnny through his eyelashes. “Not exactly. I don’t know. I didn’t want to worry you with it. And then it… wasn’t as much of an issue anymore, so there was no point in bringing it up.”
“Not an issue anymore… because of Chris,” Johnny guesses. When Ten’s head jerks up, eyes wide, Johnny shrugs. “All Kun said was that Chris was helping. Nothing else.”
Ten’s shoulders slump. “Yeah.”
Awkward silence descends over the room. It makes Johnny’s throat tighten, his stomach clench. He’s no stranger to awkward situations, it’s just been years since he felt like this with Ten. They’ve pretty much been inseparable since they’d been randomly paired as roommates freshman year, fitting into each other’s lives seamlessly. Johnny is frustrated that this situation has disrupted that easy chemistry - he’s upset at Chris, of course, but mostly he’s upset with himself.
(He’s not upset with Ten, though. Never with Ten.)
When the silence drags on to the point that it’s nearly unbearable, Johnny forces himself to speak.
“Look - we both said that we’ve never been in this situation before, right? I can’t read your mind - I can’t just know what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling. But I don’t want this new relationship to impact our friendship. Just - you know you can be honest with me, right? That you can talk to me about anything?”
“I know,” Ten says softly. He bites his lip, opens his mouth to speak, closes it again. Clearly he’s gearing up to say something - Johnny is dying to know what, but he makes himself sit and wait patiently for Ten to gather his thoughts.
“I think…” Ten starts. Stops. Starts again. “I think you should probably stop being so physically affectionate with me. I think it’s making Chris jealous.”
And that -
Okay. Johnny wasn’t expecting that. He’s so surprised that he feels it like a physical thing, like he’s been punched in the gut.
“But… but we’ve always been like that.”
Ten’s half-smile looks more like a grimace. “I know, Johnny.”
Johnny feels like his brain is going into overdrive trying to process this. “I mean - why would he be jealous? It’s not like we’re dating.”
Ten closes his eyes, letting out a breath.
“I know, Johnny,” he says again. His eyes are still closed as he speaks, his brow furrowed slightly. “But I still think it’s a good idea to just… tone it down a bit.”
Johnny is still reeling, desperately trying to salvage the situation. “He knows I’m straight, right?”
Ten’s eyes shoot open at that, and he fixes Johnny with a look that’s - well, mean. It’s an expression Johnny is familiar with, but it’s never been directed at him before.
“Yes, he does,” Ten snaps. “I told him, you told him, the dance team told him - everyone, including Chris, is very aware of your heterosexuality.”
Ten’s outburst shocks Johnny into silence. He’s seen Ten angry before, has seen Ten angry at him even, but this feels different somehow. Clearly there is something else going on here; clearly there’s something that Ten isn’t telling Johnny. Johnny can do nothing but stare at Ten, whose beautiful features are contorted into anger for a moment longer, before he seems to realize what he’s done.
“I’m sorry, Johnny, I -”
“I think I’m going to go to bed,” Johnny cuts him off, standing abruptly. He’s suddenly very tired and very done with the minefield that is this conversation. He doesn’t usually run from conflict, especially with Ten, but he’s only working with about half of the necessary information here, and he doesn’t feel like navigating through guessing the rest.
He pauses, debating whether or not he wants to say something else, and decides that he doesn’t. “Goodnight, Ten.”
Johnny barely hears Ten’s quiet “Goodnight” as he all but flees to his room. He’s fucking exhausted, but his brain won’t let him sleep, instead running through their conversation to see where it could have possibly gone wrong.
When he finally manages to doze off after who knows how long, though, he’s no closer to figuring it out - if he’s honest, he feels even more lost and confused than he did before.
“You guys are disgusting,” Johnny says, but he’s smiling as he says it. He’s over at Jaehyun and Jungwoo’s apartment, and Jaehyun is laying on their couch with his head in Doyoung’s lap.
Johnny has been seeing a lot more of their favorite barista since Jaehyun had asked him out - in fact, Doyoung had even joined their dance team, since it turns out he has an incredible singing voice. Seeing more of Doyoung means Johnny has also been seeing more of Doyoung with Jaehyun - and since they are still in the honeymoon phase, it’s more PDA than he’s seen from Jaehyun in the three years they’ve known each other.
Johnny is calling their current cutesy behavior disgusting, but it’s honestly not the worst he’s seen. He’d actually walked in on them making out in the studio twice in the last two weeks.
It wouldn’t have been so awkward if Jaehyun’s hand hadn’t been halfway down Doyoung’s pants the second time.
“Shut up,” Jaehyun responds, though the impact of his words is dulled by how content and cat-like he looks at the moment. His eyes are closed as Doyoung runs his fingers through his hair, and Johnny is sure if he were closer he’d hear Jaehyun purring.
For a moment an image of Ten flashes through Johnny’s mind, his best friend in a similar state of contentment as he stretches out on their couch and Johnny rubs at his ankles in his lap. He doesn’t want to think about Ten right now, though - their “fight” was three days ago and they still haven't talked about it, and it’s driving Johnny insane.
It’s why he’s here, actually. Ten is currently on a date with Chris, and Johnny had just been sitting alone in their apartment, his thoughts spiralling. After about 30 minutes of trying and failing to distract himself on his own, he’d bolted, desperate for company even if that meant derailing whatever plans his friends had for the night.
As if reading his mind, Doyoung narrows his eyes and asks Johnny in his crisp, precise English, “Why are you here again?”
Johnny grins wider - his favorite thing about Doyoung and Jaehyun finally dating has been finding out that their sweet, placid barista is actually a little bit of a bitch. Johnny loves it. Still, though - he’s not going to ruin the vibe of their evening with his weird mood.
“Jungwoo invited me!” he says cheerily. As if on cue, the man in question glides into the living room, his arms laden with a snack haul gathered from the apartment’s tiny kitchen.
“Bullshit,” Jungwoo responds easily, arranging their food on the coffee table. “You texted me begging to come over because you were, quote, ‘losing my goddamn mind over here by myself.’”
Johnny gapes at him. “Traitor!” So much for not bringing up his weird mood.
He probably should have known Jungwoo would expose him, the drama queen. Jungwoo just grins at him sweetly as he hands Johnny a beer.
“Alone?” Jaehyun asks. “Where’s Ten?”
Johnny tries not to pout as he answers, “On a date with Chris.” From the way Jaehyun raises his head to grin at Johnny, Johnny knows he wasn’t successful.
Johnny is expecting further ribbing, but all Jaehyun says is, “Hmm,” before lying back down and closing his eyes again.
“What?” Johnny says, suddenly defensive. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Jaehyun says placidly, humming a bit as Doyoung scratches at his head. “Just like it doesn’t mean anything that you’re so annoyed that Ten is out with Chris.”
“I’m not annoyed that Ten is out with Chris,” Johnny insists.
Jungwoo gives him an incredulous look. “Johnny, that’s why you’re here.”
“I’m here because I didn’t want to be at the apartment alone,” Johnny replies, trying to give him a death glare, “not because I’m annoyed that Ten’s out.”
Doyoung frowns at him. “Maybe it’s just because I’m still learning English, but I don’t understand your line of reasoning.”
“This was a terrible idea,” Johnny grumbles. “I should have just stayed home. Better than being subjected to the fucking inquisition.”
“But you were, again, ‘Losing your goddamn mind,’” Jungwoo points out.
Johnny throws his hands up in exasperation. “Okay fine, I’m annoyed that Ten is out with Chris. But it’s not because Ten is out. It’s because of Chris.”
“Here we go,” Jaehyun mumbles. Johnny shoots him a death glare too, but Jaehyun’s eyes are still closed. “Please, tell us for the four hundredth time why Chris is bad for Ten because of his awkward eyelashes or something.”
“Fuck you,” Johnny says, his cheeks heating. He regrets making that particular complaint to Jaehyun. Though Chris’s eyelashes are awkward. They stick straight out - no curve at all. It’s weird.
“Wait wait wait, I haven’t heard any of this,” Jungwoo says, sounding far more delighted than the situation calls for. “Do you not like him or something?”
“No, I do not like Chris,” Johnny says haughtily, “but apparently I’m the only one who sees past his amiable facade to the jackass he really is.”
Jungwoo tilts his head to the side, thinking. “I’ve met Chris. I’m trying to think of anything he’s done that could be considered ‘jackass’ behavior. He did bring Ten one of those yogurts with fruit on the bottom, but other than that he seemed kind of like the perfect boyfriend.”
“Aha!” Johnny says triumphantly, pointing at Jungwoo. “You see? Everyone thinks he’s so nice, but he clearly doesn’t listen to Ten. Anyone who’s known Ten for more than a week knows how much he hates fruit.”
“It’s just yogurt, dude,” Jaehyun says tiredly.
“It’s not just yogurt. The yogurt is a microcosm for a wider issue. Namely: that he is a complete asshole who is pretending to be a nice person.”
Jaehyun sighs and opens his eyes, turning his head to look at where Johnny is seated on the floor. “I don’t know how many times you have to hear this, from multiple people, but I really think it’s just you who doesn’t like Chris.”
Johnny huffs. “Which I still don’t understand. I’m sorry that I just don’t immediately fawn over this guy who walks into Ten’s life. Sorry for like, actually caring about the person my best friend is dating.”
“Ah,” Jungwoo says, his expression shifting as if he has just understood something. Before Johnny can ask him what the fuck that’s all about, though, Doyoung speaks.
“Is he always this obtuse?” he says in Korean, looking down at Jaehyun.
Jaehyun just grins up at him. “Pretty much,” he responds.
“Hey,” Johnny says indignantly, in Korean, “I’m right here! And I can understand you, you know!”
“Sorry,” Doyoung says, looking up at him and not looking sorry at all. “I said: Are you always this obtuse?”
Johnny is, for the second time that week, stunned into silence. Bitchy Doyoung is more fun when the bitchiness isn’t directed at him and his sore spots.
“Yah, leave him alone, Doyoungie,” Jaehyun says, squeezing his boyfriend’s wrist. “He’s a little dense, but he’ll get there eventually.”
“Get where eventually? What are you all talking about?”
Jungwoo puts a hand on his shoulder, looking sympathetic. “Have you thought about why you’re the only one who hates Chris?”
“Why do people keep asking me that?” Johnny is starting to veer from annoyed to pissed off. “Have you been talking to Kun?”
“Hmm,” Jungwoo says, eyes narrowed, “maybe you are hopeless after all.”
“Fuck all of you,” he snaps, “I don’t know why I even came over.” He tries to leave, but Jungwoo’s hand is still on his shoulder, and he doesn’t let Johnny get up.
“No no no, don’t go! I’m sorry. That was mean. Let’s not talk about Chris, okay?” He gives Johnny a friendly smile. Johnny hesitates, then relaxes. Jungwoo squeezes his shoulder before releasing it. “Let’s talk about me.”
Jaehyun groans aloud at that. “Please, for the love of god, no. I would rather listen to Johnny complain about Chris’s back moles for a week than listen to even one more story about your sexual exploits.”
“But this one is actually interesting!” Jungwoo says sunnily, undeterred. “This is about Lucas!”
Now it’s Johnny’s turn to groan.
“Jungwoo,” he says seriously, “I love you, and I am truly glad that you are the only one here getting laid on a regular basis -”
“Not the only one anymore,” Jaehyun mutters, and Doyoung grins down at him. Johnny ignores them both.
“- but, you can’t start sleeping your way through the dance team. There have to be interesting people left on this campus you can fuck without having to mess with the dynamics of our group.”
Jungwoo swats at his arm. “I don’t like what you’re implying, Johnny Suh. It’s not like that. Well, it started like that,” he amends at the look Johnny gives him, “but it’s not like that now. I think we’re actually dating now. I’m horny with my dick and my heart.”
“Next time we’re hanging out at my place,” Doyoung mutters to Jaehyun. Jungwoo sticks his tongue out at him before continuing.
“It started a couple weeks ago when Lucas and I both stayed back at the studio to practice. I know I shouldn’t have, but I was just so bored, and I didn’t feel like going through the whole process of going to a bar and all that just to get laid. Plus, you know how Lucas has those shoulders.”
Johnny nods in agreement. He does know - everyone on the team knows, Lucas has his shirt off so much. Johnny can’t really blame Jungwoo for wanting to get up close and personal. Hell, Johnny probably would too, if he swung that way at all.
“Okay,” Johnny says, “you can skip the details - you were bored, saw Lucas’s shoulders, probably jumped him in the studio, blah blah blah. How did it go from hookup to… whatever it is now?”
Jungwoo looks affronted. “I did not jump him in the studio!” He pauses. “Okay, I jumped him a little bit. But I swallowed, and so did he, so it’s not like you would have even known if I hadn’t told you just now.”
“Next time we are definitely hanging out at my place.” Doyoung sounds physically pained, and Johnny doesn’t even feel a little bit bad for laughing at him. He’ll get used to Jungwoo soon enough; for now, Johnny is going to let himself be entertained by the awkwardness rolling off Doyoung in waves.
“Shut up, prude,” Jungwoo sniffs. “Anyway. The next day I did start to regret it a little bit, because I thought it was just going to be a one time thing like usual and I didn’t want to make dance awkward. But then -” Jungwoo pauses here for dramatic effect - “he called me. On the phone. Just to tell me good morning.”
Johnny raises his eyebrows. “Shit, dude,” he says, “that’s romantic as hell.”
Jungwoo smiles proudly. “I know, right? From there it just kind of escalated, and now… yeah. We’re dating, I think. No, actually, I know. He’s my boyfriend.” He looks a little giddy, like saying the words aloud has provided him with an instant shot of serotonin.
“Well, congrats, bud,” Johnny grins, “I’m happy for you, if you’re happy.”
Jungwoo grins back, his cheeks a little pink. “I am. Thank you. I really am.”
Johnny ruffles Jungwoo’s hair until he squirms away. “Well damn, now what am I supposed to do? First Jae and Doyoung, now you and Lucas - suddenly everyone’s pairing off!”
Jungwoo’s grin settles into something gentler. “Ten too,” he reminds Johnny softly.
Johnny had been joking before, but all his good humor leaves him at that. He doesn’t quite know why, though, and doesn’t want to deal with his friends asking him weird questions he himself doesn’t know the answer to.
“Well sure,” he replies, trying to keep his voice light, “I just meant people are pairing off within the team. Ten is dating someone- someone else. An outsider.” He tries laughing, but it’s weak even to his own ears.
It’s like Johnny’s weird mood has caught on, because no one says anything for a few beats. After a moment Doyoung opens his mouth to speak, but Jaehyun reaches up to cover his mouth with his hand.
“Don’t, Doyoungie,” he says, patting his boyfriend’s face. The other man bats his hand away but stays silent.
“Um,” Jungwoo says finally, “how about some TV? There’s something I’ve had in my queue for awhile -”
That seems to break the tension of the moment - Jaehyun sits up, dislodging Doyoung’s hands from his hair, and fixes Jungwoo with a warning look.
“Jungwoo,” he says dangerously, “if you try to put on Friends again, so help me -”
“It’s an American classic!” Jungwoo says defensively, which sets Jaehyun off on his usual anti-Friends tirade, which means Johnny no longer has to participate in the conversation.
He’s glad for the excuse to sit and observe, because he’s still sort of reeling from the sudden shift in his mood a few moments ago. Objectively, what Jungwoo pointed out was true - Ten had actually started dating Chris before Jaehyun and Doyoung had gotten together, so he should have been first on the list. But Ten is dating an outsider, not someone from the team, and the distinction feels significant, somehow. And in any case, none of that explains why the thought of Ten also being paired off like Doyoung, Jaehyun, Jungwoo, and Lucas makes his chest tight.
Johnny is so lost in his thoughts he almost doesn’t notice Doyoung - instead of participating in the Friends debate, he’s looking at Johnny with an expression that is half pity, half amusement.
“What?” Johnny says, suddenly irritated. Doyoung doesn’t explain, though, just shakes his head and sighs.
“I hope you figure it out soon,” is all he says before getting up and disappearing into the kitchen.
Johnny frowns after him. He doesn’t know what “it” Doyoung is referring to, but honestly? Johnny hopes he figures it out soon too.
He stays over at Jaehyun and Jungwoo’s way longer than he expects to. Jungwoo wins the Friends battle, and the four of them spend hours half-watching, half-debating whether or not it’s actually good - Jaehyun and Doyoung insist that it’s overrated trash while Jungwoo and Johnny argue that it’s an American classic for a reason. (Despite being the only actual American in the room, Johnny secretly agrees with Doyoung and Jaehyun, but it’s way too fun to rile them up.)
By the time Jaehyun wrestles the remote away from Jungwoo and turns the TV off, it’s one AM. Johnny is surprised at how fast the time has passed, and he’s even more surprised that he’s actually managed to stop dwelling on Ten for a sustained period of time. Now that the TV is off, though, the living room is quiet as Jaehyun and Doyoung pad off to the bathroom to get ready for bed, and his spiralling thoughts from earlier in the evening come crashing back in. Jungwoo seems to sense the shift.
“You can sleep over here if you want,” he says, smiling. “The couch is probably too short for you, but I managed to squeeze a queen into my room, so we’d probably both fit.”
It’s a tempting thought. Staying here would mean he wouldn’t have to trudge back to his apartment, and it’s late enough that Ten is probably back home and in bed - as frustrated as Johnny is with his friend, he still would feel bad waking him up so late on a weeknight if he’s actually managing to get some much-needed sleep. Johnny considers Jungwoo’s offer and is about to accept when Jungwoo speaks again.
“Actually, we’d definitely fit - Lucas is almost as tall as you, and we did way more than just sleep the other night.”
Johnny smiles at Jungwoo, whose face is so earnest and open, like he has actually said something helpful.
“Jungwoo,” Johnny says fondly, clapping his friend on the shoulder, “that was way too much information.”
Jungwoo rolls his eyes. “I washed the sheets. I got most of the stains out.”
Johnny hums. “Actually, I take it back. That was too much information. I’m going to go now before you say something else that will make it hard to make eye contact with Lucas.”
Jungwoo grins devlishly. “Speaking of hard -”
“Oh my god,” Johnny groans, kicking at Jungwoo, “I hate you. I hate you so much.”
Jungwoo just cackles after him as Johnny dons his coat and steps out of their apartment and into the crisp Chicago night. The walk home is actually somewhat pleasant, the air still and quiet at so late an hour.
By the time he gets home it’s almost 1:30. He’s sure Ten must be fast asleep by now, so he’s sure to be extra quiet as he turns the key in the lock and opens the door. He can tell as he’s softly closing the door behind him that something is off about the atmosphere in their apartment. When his eyes adjust to the dim lighting of the floor lamp in the corner of their living room he figures out why.
There’s someone on his couch.
There are two someones on his couch.
The two someones are Ten and Chris, and Johnny infers from the way they’re moving together and the soft, breathy sounds filling the air that they’re making out.
As his eyes adjust further he gets a clearer picture - Ten is on his back, Chris propped up on his elbows as he kisses Ten. The kisses are slow, but deep, and very enthusiastic. Johnny watches as Chris pulls back to adjust the angle before diving back in again. Whatever he does must really work for Ten, who makes a low sound in his throat before running his nails down Chris’s back. When Ten’s hands reach Chris’s ass he squeezes, which in turn makes Chris pull back again, gasping. He doesn’t stay away for long, though, immediately diving back in to bite at Ten’s neck.
And Ten - Ten moans, loud and shameless, his head thrown back to bare his long neck. The sound rattles something in Johnny, making his stomach twist. Even though Ten and Chris are both fully clothed, Johnny feels like this is maybe the most pornographic thing he’s ever seen.
A small part of Johnny’s brain is telling him that he should move. This is private, he - he should escape into his room, ideally before they notice him, and forget he saw anything.
The rest of Johnny’s brain, however, is ringing approximately one thousand alarm bells, keeping him rooted to the spot.
He’s not sure how long he stands there - it feels like hours, but it’s probably only a few seconds - before Ten notices him and startles.
“Jesus fuck, Johnny!” He exclaims, rushing to sit up. The motion displaces Chris, who falls back onto the other side of the couch, eyes wide with shock.
Johnny is still frozen in place as he takes them in. Judging by their level of dishevelment, they’ve probably been making out for a while. Ten’s hair is a mess, and his mesh shirt has ridden up slightly. Johnny’s eyes flick over to Chris, who looks pretty much the same, except that his jeans are also undone. It makes Johnny’s gut twist again. Chris notices where he’s looking and scrambles to zip himself back up, looking embarrassed.
“Jesus, Johnny,” Ten says again, when Johnny still doesn’t say anything. He looks like a cornered animal, half furious, half shocked. “What the fuck? How long have you been standing there?”
Johnny shakes himself slightly. “I just -” his voice is weird and strained, so he clears his throat and tries again. “I uh, I just got home.”
Ten tugs his shirt down and wraps his arms around himself. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“I thought you were asleep.” The alarm bells are still blazing in Johnny’s head, so he doesn’t quite know how he’s talking. “I was trying to be quiet.”
“Oh.” The lighting is too low to be sure, but Johnny thinks he sees Ten flush. “Well, that’s considerate of you. If inconvenient, in this particular case.”
It seems none of them know what to say after that, so silence falls over the room, thick. Ten and Chris are still breathing heavily, from their aborted makeout session or Johnny’s surprise arrival or both, and the room smells faintly of sweat. It makes Johnny feel sick.
Like, literally sick, not metaphorically - his stomach clenches dangerously, and he’s afraid he’s about to throw up in the living room.
“I’m going to -” he starts, then finds he can’t say anything else, and hurries to the bathroom. He turns the tap on as cold as it will go and splashes some water onto his face, breathing deeply. As he wills the nausea to pass, he tries to process what just happened.
He’s a little startled by the force of his reaction. It’s not like he’s completely unfamiliar with public displays of affection. He’s on a dance team where a good portion of the members are dating each other, and the ones who aren’t are still pretty physically affectionate with one another.
Admittedly, though, there is a difference between Haechan going on a mission to kiss everyone on the cheek at least once and walking in on your friends full on making out. Not that Johnny would even pretend to describe Chris as a friend. That must be it - the combination of the PDA being something so intimate plus one of the people involved being someone he actively hates has crossed a line.
The scene he’d walked in on flashes through Johnny’s mind again - Chris and Ten’s soft, breathy sounds as they made out; Ten’s nails scratching down Chris’s back; Chris’s unbuttoned jeans. Ten’s face as he moaned, neck elongated for Chris to kiss. Out of everything, that last mental image rattles Johnny the most - thinking about it makes his skin itch, makes his heart pound. What would have happened if he hadn’t walked in? Clearly they had been going at it for a while. If Johnny hadn’t interrupted them, would they have kept going? Would they have moved to Ten’s room, or would they have stayed on the couch, Ten’s hands continuing their exploration of Chris’s body, moving around to where Chris’s pants had already been unbuttoned…
A wave of nausea rolls over him again and Johnny leans over the sink, trying not to retch. Fuck, what - what was Ten thinking? Letting them do that on the couch, out in the open where anyone walking in could see - where Johnny did see? Johnny thinks about having to sit on that couch tomorrow and act like nothing happened, and the thought makes him furious. What Ten decides to do with his terrible boyfriend in the privacy of his own room is one thing - out of sight, out of mind.
But making out on the couch? Doing… other things on the couch? It’s just inconsiderate.
Johnny feels a little better, having figured out the source of his frustration. As he dries his face, taking deep breaths and forcing his heart rate to slow, he hears the muffled sounds of a conversation, followed by their front door opening and closing. Hopefully that means Chris left - thank God. For several reasons, Johnny does not think he could stand having to face him right now. As it is Johnny is not particularly looking forward to facing Ten. He should probably bring up the fact that this was such an egregious breach of personal boundaries, but he’s not sure how to approach the topic.
Still - he can’t stay in the bathroom forever. He takes one last deep breath and opens the door.
Ten is curled up on the couch, biting his nails, but he stops and looks up when he sees Johnny come out of the bathroom. Johnny knows Ten well enough to decipher the mix of emotions on his face - frustration, embarrassment, guilt. Johnny wonders what Ten sees in his own expression. He walks over with the intention of joining Ten on the couch, but just the thought threatens to bring back his nausea again. He sits on the floor. Ten frowns down at him, but doesn’t comment.
“I feel like I should apologize,” Ten says after a tense moment. “I mean, you definitely could have made a little more noise coming in. But I’m still sorry you… walked in on that.”
Well, maybe this will be easier than Johnny expected.
“Thank you,” Johnny replies. “It was a little jarring, coming home to two people making out in my living room.”
Ten’s eyebrows shoot up.
“Our living room,” he corrects. “I live here too, you know.”
“Yeah, but your room is right there,” Johnny points out, in what he thinks is a reasonable counterpoint. “Why couldn’t you have moved your… activities in there?”
Ten purses his lips. “Well, as you saw, I was a little busy.” His voice is deceptively even, in a way that Johnny recognizes means he is trying not to lose his cool. “I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly.”
And that - that makes Johnny’s blood boil.
“Well it was really fucking rude of you,” he snaps. “Next time try thinking with your head instead of your dick.”
Ten scoffs, shocked and clearly furious, and opens his mouth to speak - but Johnny stands before he can say anything.
“You know what, actually? Fuck this. I don’t feel like doing this right now. I’m going to bed.” He doesn’t wait for Ten’s reaction before stalking down the short hall to his room.
“You fucking started this!” Ten yells after him. They are making entirely too much noise for the hour, but Johnny doesn’t care. “You can’t just walk away in the middle of this conversation!”
“Watch me!” Johnny calls over his shoulder, and slams the door to his room behind him.
Johnny wakes up at an absolutely ungodly hour the next day. Well - can you wake up if you never really fell asleep in the first place? He’d gone to bed, but he hadn’t been able to relax. He kept tossing and turning, replaying the night’s events in his mind over and over -
When the sun starts to peek through his blinds at 7 am, he resigns himself to the fact that sleep is truly not going to happen, getting out of bed with a sigh.
When he opens the door to his room, he’s surprised to see that Ten is already awake, sitting at the counter with his hands wrapped around a mug. He looks like he got just as much sleep as Johnny - his skin, which is normally unusually bright, is pale and haggard, and he has deep circles under his eyes.
Johnny’s first instinct is to go over to Ten and wrestle him back into bed, like he usually does when Ten pushes himself too hard and ignores his physical needs. But then the previous night’s conversation - argument? - rushes back into his sleep-addled brain. Johnny clears his throat and walks over to the kitchen.
Ten starts a little at Johnny’s voice, but fatigue dulls his reaction. He doesn’t smile.
“Morning,” he replies. His voice is slightly raspy with sleep, and even with everything else going on Johnny can’t help but find it endearing. Johnny notices Ten’s hands tighten around his mug and frowns.
“Is that coffee?” he asks. He glances over to the drying mat next to the sink where, sure enough, his French press has been rinsed and laid out to dry.
Ten quirks an eyebrow. “Yeah. I used a little bit of yours. I hope you don’t mind.”
Johnny bristles a little, though he’s not sure why - he and Ten have a standing rule to share any food that they buy, which theoretically also includes his coffee, though Ten prefers his tea in the mornings.
“Of course not,” Johnny says, hoping he sounds more nonchalant than he feels, “I just thought you only drank iced coffee.”
Ten fixes him with a look that feels a little bit like a challenge. “Chris got me into trying it hot.”
Ah. Of course. Even though Johnny has been drinking coffee every morning for years and Ten has hardly shown any interest in it. Fucking Chris.
But all Johnny says is, “Oh. Okay.”
The underlying tension in the air turns cloying as he busies himself making his own coffee. His mind is racing, and he’s sure Ten’s is too, but neither of them say anything. Johnny, for his part, doesn’t quite know what to say. Eventually, though, he runs out of things to do with his hands, setting the timer on his phone for his coffee to steep. He drums his fingers on the counter a couple of times before he decides to just say what he’s been itching to say since last night.
“I don’t think you should be making out with Chris on the living room sofa.”
Ten’s eyebrows shoot up. “Oh, are you ready to talk about this now?” he says meanly. He leans back in his chair, like he was waiting for this, and crosses his arms. “Why not?”
Johnny can tell he’s wading into dangerous territory here, but this is important, so he powers through.
“It’s just disrespectful. Our friends sit on that couch, you know? I sit on that couch. I don’t think they’d want to come over anymore if they knew you guys had been making out all over it.”
Ten rolls his eyes. “You’re so immature. ‘Making out all over it.’ No one would give a shit. I think there’s been so much vodka spilled on that thing that if you lit a match in this room it’d spontaneously combust. Besides, not two months ago you were telling me all about how you got drunk and fucked Jenny on that couch after the Homecoming game.”
Johnny fumes with embarrassment and irritation. “That’s different!”
Ten scoffs. “Different how? You made me listen to that story in detail and I can guarantee Chris and I weren’t doing even a fraction of the shit you claim to have done with her.”
“It’s just different!” Johnny snaps. At Ten’s words the rush of last night’s memories come pouring back into his mind, and it makes him furious. “That was Jenny, not… not… some guy!”
Immediately, Johnny regrets saying it. Ten’s entire demeanor changes - before he’d been pissed off, irritated; now he’s gone completely still in a way that Johnny recognizes as very, very dangerous.
“Some guy, Johnny?” His voice is eerily calm. “What do you mean by that, exactly?”
Johnny’s blood runs cold. He knows what Ten is implying, and he’s afraid he’s right. When Ten speaks again Johnny thinks he can physically feel the ice in his words.
“Get the fuck out.”
Johnny really doesn’t know Kun that well, but Kun said Johnny could talk to him any time, so as soon as he leaves their apartment - in his ratty sleep sweats, tennis shoes, and the peacoat he’d left by the door - he goes to the library.
He forgets, however, that it’s 7:30 in the morning. Unsurprisingly, Kun isn’t there.
Still, though - it’s way warmer in the library than it is outside, and he doesn’t really know what to do with himself anyway, so he slides into the booth by the window that Kun normally occupies and just. Sits there. He carefully does not think about anything except the way the wind knocks the leaves off of the trees he can see through the window, and how in a few weeks he’ll have to put away the tennis shoes he’s currently wearing until next spring.
Johnny has no idea how long he’s been sitting there when Kun finds him. Kun doesn’t bother to hide his alarm as he slides into the booth, which is how Johnny knows he looks just as shitty as he feels.
“Um… dude? Are you okay?” He asks, voice full of concern.
“I think I’m secretly homophobic,” Johnny replies miserably.
Kun’s eyes widen at that. “Oh boy.” He stands immediately, tugging at Johnny’s arm. “We can’t have this conversation in the library. Come on, let’s go get pizza.”
Apparently, Johnny had been sitting in the library spacing out for almost three hours. He still feels like it’s too early for pizza, but when he tries to tell Kun this Kun just levels him with a look.
“It’s never too early for pizza when you’re in a crisis,” he says, muscling Johnny into a chair at a table in the corner - no small feat, given their height difference.
Johnny frowns. “Am I in a crisis?”
Kun blinks at him. “Yes, Johnny.”
“Huh,” Johnny says, and then he buries his head in his arms on the table.
Kun lets Johnny lay there pathetically as he goes to the counter to order them food, and Johnny has never been more grateful for anyone in his life. After a few moments he hears a dull thud by his ear. When he looks up he sees that Kun has returned with Cokes for both of them.
Johnny pulls the soda towards himself, clinging to the glass with two hands. “If I try to tell you that it’s too early for soda will you just tell me I’m in a crisis again?”
Kun’s expression tells him that yes, he absolutely would. So Johnny just unwraps a straw and takes a drink. He has to admit that as weird as it is to be drinking anything but coffee before noon, it does make him feel slightly better.
As Kun busies himself with his own straw his phone buzzes with a text. Johnny’s stomach plummets.
“Who’s that?” he asks. He dimly notes that his voice sounds slightly manic.
Kun’s eyes flit towards Johnny over the top of his glasses before focusing back on his phone.
“It’s Sicheng,” he replies. “We were supposed to meet up before his 11 am class. I’m letting him know I can’t make it.”
Johnny didn’t know how anxious he was about who might have been texting Kun until the relief washes over him. But then he processes Kun’s words and realizes that he’s totally upending Kun’s day with his - well, crisis.
“It’s really cool of you to be so nice to me even though you know I’m a homophobe,” Johnny says, sounding about as miserable as he feels. Kun sighs and puts his phone away.
“Okay, stop. You know too many queer people to be homophobic,” Kun points out reasonably. “I’m pretty sure at least 70% of the dance team is queer. Renjun, Jeno, and Jaemin are all dating each other.” Kun pauses. “I mean, you’re friends with Jungwoo.”
That last point is more convincing than anything else Kun has said so far.
“I guess you might have a point,” Johnny concedes. “Jungwoo was just telling me about how he and Lucas sucked each other off in the studio after practice the other day. That didn’t seem to bother me - or at least not more than it would bother any reasonable person.”
Kun looks horrified. “He and Lucas what?”
Johnny shakes his head. “Don’t ask.”
“I didn’t,” Kun replies, his voice weak. “I literally would never have asked.”
“Um - anyway,” Johnny says quickly, “that’s not the point. Hearing about your friends’... activities with their boyfriends is one thing. Seeing it is another thing. Seeing it in my home is another-nother thing. And apparently that’s what my issue is.”
Kun raises his eyebrows. “Did something happen in your home?”
Johnny slumps in his seat, rubbing his fingers over the condensation on the outside of his glass of Coke. “I walked in on Ten and Chris.”
“Whoa,” Kun says, eyes wide. “You walked in on Ten and Chris…?”
For a moment Johnny doesn’t understand what Kun is trying to say - when realization hits, his stomach drops.
“No! Oh no no no. Thank fuck. But they were… making out on the sofa in the living room. Pretty heavily.”
He tries not to let his mind wander back to the scenes he pictured last night, when his thoughts were running away from him, and concentrates very hard on looking only at Kun. Kun doesn’t look quite so horrified anymore, just sympathetic.
“That must have been hard for you,” he says gently, like some sort of therapist, but it works - the tension in Johnny’s body bleeds out of him until all he feels is a stone of guilt in his gut.
“It was hard for me,” he admits, “but isn’t that the problem? Isn’t that part of what homophobia is, being upset with public displays of affection between two guys? I mean -” he hesitates for a moment, because he doesn’t want Kun to totally hate him. But he decides it’s better to be honest. “Kun, I almost threw up. How is it not homophobic to see two guys together and immediately want to hurl?”
Kun doesn’t say anything for a moment. His lips are pursed and his brow is furrowed, but it looks less like he’s angry and more like he’s ruminating over what he wants to say.
“I think,” he says slowly, very clearly trying to be deliberate as he chooses his words, “that there’s a difference between being upset because you’re homophobic and being upset because you saw someone you are very close to making out with someone.”
Johnny frowns. “So I’m not a homophobic asshole who doesn’t want to see my gay best friend in a relationship, I’m just a regular asshole? How is that better?”
“Ah - no, no. That’s not what I’m trying to say.” Clearly frustrated, Kun mutters something to himself under his breath in Mandarin. Johnny panics.
“Hey, dude, could you please speak English or Korean? Normally I would never tell you how to speak, but I’m still kind of convinced you secretly hate me for all this, and you using a language I don’t understand doesn’t really help.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Kun says, looking genuinely apologetic. “It’s just - I’m trying to think of how I can get my point across.” He pauses for a moment before his face lights up. “Okay, so you said you’re worried that you feel this way because you saw Ten being close with another guy, right?”
“Right,” Kun nods. “Well, what about Ten and Sicheng’s dance?”
Johnny tilts his head at the non sequitur. “What about it?”
“They get very close in that choreography,” Kun continues. “It’s very intimate. Does that bother you?”
“Of course not!”
“Because it’s WinWin,” Johnny replies, baffled at this line of questioning, “and it’s dance. It’s… I don’t know. That’s just how dance is. And I know it’s not really romantic because you and WinWin are stupidly in love.”
“Alright,” Kun presses, “what about Ten and Taeyong’s dance? Taeyong is gay too, and single. And the song they dance to is pretty suggestive. Does that bother you?”
Johnny shakes his head, still confused. “Uh, no, not at all. That’s actually one of my favorite of Ten’s pieces of choreography.”
Kun just smiles placidly at that, humming as he takes a drink of his Coke.
“So maybe the problem isn’t Ten with other guys,” Kun reasons. “Maybe it’s Ten with this guy specifically. Who everyone knows you’ve never liked.”
And - okay. Maybe Kun has a point. Johnny wants to give himself a moment to process, though, so he tries to break the tension of the moment with a sarcastic comment.
“Oh, everyone knows I don’t like him?” he says with a laugh.
Kun doesn’t look amused.
“Yes, Johnny, everyone knows,” he says flatly. “I even heard that new kid Shotaro talking about it with Yuta the other day.”
Well, that backfired. Now Johnny just feels embarrassed.
“Oh,” he says, slumping into his seat.
Kun sighs. “Look. I’m not trying to embarrass you. I’m just saying… maybe there’s a reason you feel this way?”
Johnny drums his fingers on his glass. “Besides homophobia?”
“Besides homophobia,” Kun confirms.
Johnny considers this. He kind of sees where Kun is coming from - he does have a lot of queer friends, and he never seems to be uncomfortable around any of them. Well, except for Jungwoo, sometimes, but clearly even Kun is sometimes uncomfortable with Jungwoo, and Kun is in a relationship with a man.
Still, though. Johnny remembers the force of his reaction - even now just the memory of last night’s events makes his stomach twist unpleasantly. Johnny can think of no other explanation for his extreme discomfort than blatant homophobia.
He’s saved from trying to articulate this to Kun, though, by the arrival of their pizza - along with an unexpected guest.
“Hi Johnny,” Yangyang says brightly - too brightly, actually, given Johnny’s exhaustion and his current predicament. Yangyang looks stupidly bubbly and adorable in his pizza boy uniform as he sets their order down on the table. Instead of walking away, however, he decides to join them, folding himself and his miles of skinny legs into the chair next to Kun. Kun rolls his eyes, but still slides his chair over slightly to make room. “Fancy seeing you here! I didn’t know you and Kun hung out.”
“Yah, why are you sitting down? Aren’t you supposed to be working?” Kun flicks Yangyang’s forehead lightly.
Yangyang bats his hand away. “You guys are the only ones in here,” he whines, petulant, “and I wanted to hang out with my friends!”
“We’re actually kind of in the middle of an important conversation.” Kun doesn’t quite snap at Yangyang, but he comes closer to sounding annoyed than Johnny has ever heard from him.
“Oh,” Yangyang says, turning serious. He faces Johnny. “Is this about… you know?” He raises his eyebrows suggestively.
Johnny does not know, and when he looks to Kun for a clue, he sees that Kun has just buried his face in his hands and is shaking his head.
“Uh… no?” Johnny says slowly. He swallows nervously. He supposes he should just say it - step one is admitting you have a problem. “I’m… I’m working through my realization that I’m homophobic.”
Johnny is expecting anger or hatred, but when the smile drops off Yangyang’s face he just looks confused. “How can you be homophobic if you’re queer?”
Johnny blinks. “What?”
“Sorry,” Yangyang continues, “gay? Bi? I used queer because I was never really sure since you only -”
“OKAY,” Kun says a little too loudly, making Johnny and Yangyang jump, “okay, thank you, Yangyang, for your help, please go away now. We’ll catch up with you later, I promise.”
Yangyang still looks confused, but he obliges, waving awkwardly as he makes his way back across the dining room to the kitchen. Kun shakes his head after him.
“That kid, I swear. Our loveable and obnoxious little sheep. No tact at all.”
“Kun,” Johnny says slowly, “why does Yangyang think I’m queer?”
Kun sighs and shakes his head at the ceiling despairingly. “No tact. Listen,” he looks at Johnny then, his eyes piercing even through the lenses of his glasses, “I was trying to gently guide you to this line of thinking, but I do think Yangyang makes a point. I don’t want to assume that I know more about you than you do, but I have to ask - are you really completely straight?”
Johnny frowns, considering. Yangyang making - whatever assumptions he was making is one thing, but level-headed Kun asking him about his sexuality point blank makes him want to give this some serious thought.
“Yes...?” He says, slowly mulling it over as he speaks. “Yes. I’ve always liked girls, for sure, so.”
“Okay,” Kun nods, “but you know there’s more than just gay and straight, right? I’ve always liked girls too, but when my ‘men I would make out with’ list got longer than 5 people I had to rethink some things. Are you sure there’s no… wiggle room, for you?”
Again, Johnny thinks seriously before he answers. It reminds him of this stupid game he and his basketball teammates used to play in high school when one of them would sneak some of their parents’ liquor to their sleepovers. They would go around the room and everyone would have to say one male celebrity they would sleep with, and whoever refused to answer had to take an extra shot. Years later, he now realizes what a fucked up game it had been, but he can’t help but think of some of his answers in a new light.
“Uh… Chris Evans, I guess? Kai from EXO. Lebron, Steph Curry. Taemin.” Johnny feels a tug in his gut at that last one, thinking of the way his hips had moved in the video he’d watched a few weeks ago. It’s a startling feeling, but what’s more startling is that he recognizes it as familiar, because he’d reacted the same way when he’d seen it for the first time.
“Holy shit,” he says aloud to Kun, eyes wide, “Kun, am I bi?”
“Only you can decide that,” Kun replies, but he has that proud parent look on his face, like Johnny has just worked through a very difficult math problem all on his own.
Johnny tries to imagine dancing with Taemin at a club. They’re in public, so Johnny has to stop imagining dancing with Taemin at a club.
“No, I think I’m bi,” he says faintly. It’s 10:30 am on a Tuesday and he’s having a sexual revelation in a shitty Chicago pizza parlor. It’s exciting and exhausting in turns. He may need to sleep for a week.
Thinking of sleeping makes him think of his apartment, which makes him think of Ten, which snaps him out of his crisis and back into the present.
“Wait, hold on,” he says, leaning forward and gesturing to Kun. “So now we’ve established that I have… a lot to think about, in the ‘finding men attractive’ department. But this still doesn’t explain why I’m apparently the only one who hates Ten’s boyfriend.”
Kun squirms in his seat, visibly uncomfortable.
“Unfortunately that’s one I don’t think I - or Yangyang - can help you with,” he replies. He is suddenly very interested in stirring his Coke. “That’s something you need to think about on your own.”
This is the most surprising thing Kun has said or done so far - which is saying something, considering their conversation up to this point. Kun literally just facilitated Johnny’s bisexual awakening. Why is he so reticent about Ten?
The realization kind of crashes over Johnny like a wave - why he’s the only one who doesn’t like Chris, why he overreacted walking in on the two of them making out, why it’s so hard to watch them together. Why Winwin cradling Ten’s face doesn’t bother Johnny, but Chris holding Ten’s hand does. Why he’s always thought of Ten’s profile as particularly beautiful. Why even the thought of Ten finding happiness with someone other than him makes his throat clench and his stomach churn.
“Oh,” Johnny says quietly.
Kun looks up from his Coke, takes in Johnny’s posture, and smiles sadly.
“Yeah,” he replies.
“I’m in love with Ten.” Johnny would be shocked at how easy it is for him to say the words, if not for the riot of emotions in his heart.
“Yeah,” Kun repeats, his tone gentle. “I always thought you were just really good friends, but then Chris came into the picture, and… well. Like I said, it took me awhile to realize I was queer too. I recognized the signs.”
Alright, so Kun had known. Kun had known before he did. Johnny tries not to let it get to him, given that he only figured out that he’s apparently bi about five minutes ago, but it still kind of sucks.
He thinks about some of the conversations he’s had over the past few weeks - all the sympathetic glances, the pointed teasing, the suggestive comments. His friends’ recent behavior suddenly makes sense, if this is what caused it.
God - how obvious had he been?
“Is this another thing that everybody knows about me?” Johnny’s aiming for levity, because he doesn’t know what to do with serious emotions other than joke about them. But his heart is rattling away in his chest, and he can hear some of that fear come through in his voice.
“I don’t think everybody knows,” Kun says. Johnny doesn’t respond; just sits in silence, expectant. Kun sighs. “I definitely don’t think Ten knows.”
Johnny exhales heavily. His heart is still pounding away, but it doesn’t feel as much like it’s going to beat out of his chest.
“Okay,” he says, taking another deep breath, “okay, good. That’s… good.”
Kun leans forward, hands clasped in front of him, eyes serious. “I think you should tell him, though.”
Johnny flinches as if Kun’s words had physically struck him. “What? No. No way. Absolutely not.”
Despite the fact that Kun seems to have gone temporarily insane, his voice is frustratingly calm. “I’m serious, Johnny. I think Ten would really appreciate knowing how you’re feeling - why you’ve been acting the way you’ve been for the past couple of weeks.” He raises his eyebrows meaningfully.
Johnny’s breath catches - is Kun implying…?
No. God, maybe Johnny is the one who’s going insane. For a split second he’d thought maybe Kun was implying that Ten would want to know about Johnny’s feelings because he felt the same. But no, that can’t be what Kun means. Johnny’s been best friends with Ten for years, he would have - he would have known, surely.
“I appreciate the advice,” Johnny says, “I really do. And you’ve been so cool, helping me with all of my bullshit. But I can’t do that to him. You said it yourself a few weeks ago - he’s been having a rough time lately, and Chris has been helping with that. What kind of friend would I be if I just dropped this on him, out of nowhere?”
Kun’s lips are pressed together tightly, like he wants to say something but is holding himself back. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, inhaling through his nose and exhaling through his mouth. When he opens his eyes again, he gives Johnny a wry smile.
“I think you’re making a mistake,” he says. “But it’s your happiness, so. You just do what feels right.”
Johnny nods, and a comfortable silence descends over the table. Johnny realizes that they still haven’t touched the pizza, but the thought of eating anything right now sounds about as unappealing as confessing his recently-realized feelings to his best friend of almost four years.
God. What a mess he’s gotten himself in.
“I think I’m gonna go,” he says, pushing his chair back and standing up. “I can Venmo you for the pizza.”
Kun waves him off. “Don’t worry about it. Sicheng will be ecstatic. He’ll probably eat the whole thing.”
Johnny huffs out a laugh and squeezes Kun’s shoulder. “Thanks again, Kun.”
Kun smiles at him. “Any time,” he responds, patting Johnny’s hand. “And like I said, do whatever feels right to you, but just - promise me you’ll think about telling him?”
Johnny hesitates for a moment, but nods. He may not act on it, but he’s being honest - he’s one hundred percent sure that this is something he will be giving a lot of thought to.
Johnny’s self-proclaimed biggest fault is that he has a hard time taking people’s advice, but in this case he’s certain that he’s in the right. He knows Kun means well, but as he leaves the pizza parlor he decides that there is absolutely no way he is telling Ten any of this.
His phone buzzes with a text from Jaehyun that says, “you should have told me you were ditching why tf am i even here.” He’d completely forgotten about his classes - he’s supposed to be in econ with Jaehyun right now, and then he has a geology lab later in the day. But he can barely pay attention in class on a regular day, let alone when he is having to work through multiple life-changing realizations on practically no sleep.
Johnny doesn’t really want to go home, either, but it is late October in Chicago and he is wearing tennis shoes with no socks.
For a split second, he thinks to himself that frostbite would be preferable to having to potentially face Ten right now. But then the wind picks up, a bone-rattling shiver running through his body. He sighs and starts making his way back towards their apartment building.
Johnny’s mind races with possible scenarios he might encounter when he gets home, each one more anxiety-inducing than the last. A small, hopeful part of his brain tries to convince him that maybe he’ll get lucky - maybe Ten will have left to go to class or to Chris’s or something. He’s forcing himself to think of best case scenarios when he gets to their apartment.
As he unlocks the exterior door, he notices a ruined Edible Arrangement on the ground by the dumpster - from the way the bouquet has been crushed and the wet spot on the side of the dumpster, Johnny guesses someone hurled it in a fit of anger.
Johnny kind of feels how the Edible Arrangement looks.
When Johnny walks into their apartment, Ten is sitting on their couch biting his nails, a forgotten mug of something on the coffee table in front of him. He notices Johnny come in (this time). He doesn’t say anything though, just kind of - glares at him. No, glare isn’t quite the right word; Johnny can tell that Ten is trying to fix him with his “don’t fuck with me” look, but the effect is dulled by how red and puffy his eyes are.
Johnny’s dealing with a number of emotions, looking at Ten - love, fear, frustration, love, love, love. Even now, with his bloodshot eyes and an expression on his face like he never wants to see Johnny again, Johnny can’t help but think about how beautiful Ten is.
Fuck, how had he not known how in love he was? Now that he’s put a name to his feelings, Johnny realizes that he has probably felt this way for a long time.
The primary emotion Johnny is feeling at the moment, however, is guilt. He and Ten have had their fair share of disagreements over the years, but he’s never made Ten cry before. Johnny’s chest tightens and he has to swallow down a lump in his throat. At that moment, he’s sure he’s the absolute worst person in the world.
Johnny uses the excuse of taking off his jacket and shoes to gather himself before he turns to face Ten.
“Hi,” he says softly. Ten eyes him for a few moments longer, then swallows hard before responding.
“Hi.” Ten’s voice is slightly rough from crying, and he’s still trying to glare daggers at Johnny, but at least he hasn’t tried to kick him out again. That’s a good sign, right?
Johnny decides that it is, and takes the opportunity to walk over and gently lower himself onto the other end of the couch. Ten doesn’t protest - another good sign. Now that Johnny is closer he can smell that the contents of Ten’s mug are his normal morning tea, not the coffee from earlier. It’s a small thing, but the familiar scent soothes Johnny enough to speak.
“I’m sorry about this morning.” He glances over at Ten, but Ten’s eyes are fixed on his mug. Johnny takes the opportunity to drink in Ten’s profile for a few moments before looking down at his own hands. “And about last night. And the past few weeks, actually. I’ve been a real dick. You - you and Chris don’t deserve that.”
God, talking about Ten’s boyfriend had been hard enough before he had his big epiphany. Now saying his name feels like spitting up bile.
But this isn’t about Johnny and his emotional bullshit, this is about Ten - who still hasn’t said anything. Johnny waits patiently for him to respond, even though half of Johnny wants to run away screaming from this conversation.
(The other half wants to take the tea out of Ten’s hands, lean in, and - well. That’s not an option right now.)
“Why, Johnny?” Ten says after a while. His voice is small, and the hurt he’s feeling is clear in his tone. “You’re my best friend, how could you -”
Ten takes a deep, rattling breath, composing himself. It makes Johnny’s heart break. He has to find a way to rectify this situation - to explain himself without ruining everything they have.
“Look,” Johnny says, “I know my behavior the past few weeks have been inexcusable. But I talked it over with Kun, and he helped me - work through some things. So I can promise you that it won’t be an issue moving forward.”
Ten sits up at that - when Johnny looks at his face he notices that all traces of sadness are gone, and now Ten just looks mad. No, not mad; furious, like a switch has been flipped. He turns to face Johnny, arms crossed.
“That’s great that you talked it over with Kun,” he says slowly, “but he’s not the one you had an issue with. You should have talked to me - you know, your best friend? I need to know why my relationship with Chris was even an issue for you in the first place. I think I deserve an explanation.”
Johnny can feel himself turning red - he hopes Ten doesn’t notice. “I don’t want to get into it - it was my problem, not yours, and it was unfair of me to take it out on you and Chris. But I promise you it won’t happen anymore. You can trust me.”
Ten scoffs. “Sorry, Johnny,” he says, not sounding sorry at all, “but the way you’ve been acting the past few weeks doesn’t exactly tell me that I can trust you.”
Please, Johnny thinks, please just accept this and move on. Out loud, he says, “I know, and I’m sorry about that, but things will be different now. I know I’ll have to prove it to you, earn your trust again, but I promise I will - I won’t act like that in the future.”
“Oh, things will be different now?” Ten stands then, taking a few strides across the living room and then back to the couch again, like he doesn’t know what to do with himself. “Different how, exactly?”
He stares down at Johnny like he expects a response - Johnny wracks his brain, but he isn’t quick enough.
“I need you to not run away from this conversation and actually fucking talk to me about this,” Ten snaps, voice rising. “Because to be honest, I don’t really feel comfortable living with you anymore if the ‘solution’ -” he makes air quotes with his fingers, and the gesture is dripping with sarcasm - “to your problem is that you’re just going to be homophobic in secret rather than to my face.”
Well, fuck. Johnny is well and truly panicking now - he understands why Ten feels this way, given that he himself had come to the same erroneous conclusion earlier, but he needs to make sure Ten knows that’s not the issue here. He tries to keep his voice calm. “I’m not homophobic.”
Ten crosses his arms. “I don’t believe you.”
“Then what is it?!”
“I - I was jealous!”
Fuck, fuck, fuck. Too close to the truth - Johnny didn’t mean to say that.
Ten laughs in disbelief. “Jealous?! Of Chris?! Oh sure, we’re best friends who spend all our free time together, but that’s not enough! The second I start spending any amount of time with someone other than you, you get all possessive -”
“I’m in love with you, okay?!”
As soon as Johnny says the words, Ten goes silent. His entire face changes, morphing from fury to shock, his arms falling to his sides. It’s so quiet in their apartment Johnny can hear the hum of the refrigerator, his heartbeat pounding in his ears. Johnny wonders if Ten can hear that too.
“Fuck,” Johnny says. Then, with more feeling - “Fuck!” He runs a hand through his hair in frustration. “I’m sorry, I didn’t - I didn’t want to tell you, I know it’s not fair. But it’s also not fair for you not to know, I guess.”
Ten hasn’t said anything, so Johnny chances a look up. Ten is still frozen in shock, staring at him. Johnny can’t decide what he wants Ten to say - or whether he even wants Ten to speak at all.
Ten gapes for a few more seconds, then says, “But I - you’re straight.”
Johnny huffs out a humorless laugh. “Apparently not. That’s, uh… one of the things I talked about with Kun.”
Ten opens his mouth as if he’s going to speak again, but doesn’t say anything. He sways for a moment before dropping heavily into his spot on the sofa.
“How long…?” he starts, then trails off.
“Uh -” Johnny checks his watch. “I guess, like - half an hour?”
“No,” Ten says, flushing, “how long have you, um - that. About me.”
“Oh.” Now it’s Johnny’s turn to flush. “Well, like I said, I figured the bi thing out like, half an hour ago. But if I’m being honest with myself -” he forces himself to make eye contact with Ten. Johnny can be a coward sometimes, sure, but this is one of the most important conversations he’s ever had in his life. Ten still looks shocked - not angry, or happy, or anything else, just shocked. The unfiltered nature of his expression makes him look more vulnerable than usual. He’s beautiful. He takes Johnny’s breath away.
“I’ve probably - years,” he blurts, not even attempting to filter his words. “I’ve probably loved you for years.”
Unexpectedly, and horribly, Ten’s eyes are filling with tears again.
“Is this -” Ten starts, but his voice catches, so he clears his throat. “Is this a trick?”
Johnny’s jaw drops. “Oh my god, Ten, no - of course not -”
“Because I know you don’t like Chris,” Ten continues as if Johnny hasn’t spoken, “but if this is some plot you came up with just to get him out of the picture -”
“No!” Johnny exclaims, panicked. He makes a move towards Ten as if to grab his hands, then thinks better of it, so his own hands kind of flutter uselessly in the air for a few seconds before he pulls them back towards himself. “Shit, Ten, I know I’ve been an asshole, but that would just be - I would never trick you about something like this. You’re too important to me.”
Ten seems to believe him - he stops trying to protest, anyway, instead just staring at Johnny. His lips are pressed tightly together, his eyes still wet. Johnny swallows down a lump in his throat.
“I’m not telling you this because I’m expecting anything,” Johnny says slowly. He wants to be deliberate in what he expresses, here. “I know you have Chris, and I can respect that. I mean - now I can respect that, since I realize why I haven’t been able to get along with him. I just... hope you don’t hate me for any of this. I mean it when I say you’re important to me, Ten. I don’t know what I would do without you in my life.”
Johnny feels something wet roll down his cheeks and realizes that at some point he’d started crying. He curses, wiping the tears away. Ten just watches him, his own eyes shimmering, though no tears seem to be falling this time. He bites his lip before speaking.
“I could never hate you, Johnny,” he says softly.
Johnny exhales heavily. He feels lighter, as if a literal weight has been lifted off his shoulders. “Thank god, because -”
“Especially since I’m in love with you, too,” Ten interrupts.
Johnny freezes. He’s sitting down, but there’s a swooping sensation in his gut like the ground has just dropped out from underneath him.
“I - okay,” he starts, but he has no idea what to say. “I - what?”
All of the hurt in Ten’s expression has disappeared. He’s actually smiling at Johnny, in that coy way he does when he’s kind of laughing at Johnny but also hopelessly fond. He raises his eyebrows expectantly, like he expects Johnny to actually respond with words.
So Johnny gives words a shot.
“But - you’re dating Chris!”
Ten rolls his eyes. “I was only dating Chris because I felt pathetic, having this big crush on you for years that was never going to go anywhere. I didn’t really like him that much.”
It’s just like Ten to be so cavalier about his own feelings, so blasé about what surely couldn’t have been an easy thing to go through. Johnny is about to call him out on it when his brain actually processes what Ten just said.
“Wait,” Johnny says, “what do you mean you were dating Chris?”
Ten waves a hand, dismissive. “I broke up with him.”
Johnny shakes his head in disbelief. “What?! When? Why?”
“Oh,” Ten says airily, mimicking looking at his wrist, “about half an hour ago.” He grins at Johnny, cheeky, and Johnny breathes out a helpless laugh.
“As for why,” Ten continues, “when I called him and told him I was mad at you, he rush ordered an Edible Arrangement. An Edible Arrangement, Johnny. Said he wanted to get me something healthy, since he knows how ‘body conscious’ I am.”
“Aha!” Johnny points at Ten, triumphant. “I knew it! I knew he didn’t listen to you! Jungwoo said he brought you yogurt with fruit, and then tried to tell me it wasn’t a big deal!”
“Ugh! The yogurt!” Ten groans, running a hand down his face. “I was so grossed out, but I had to act like everything was okay because the whole dance team wouldn’t shut up about how adorable it was, or whatever.”
Johnny shakes his head, chuckling. “I knew he was an asshole. Everyone thought I was crazy. Well, okay, maybe I also was a little crazy. But still.”
Ten laughs too. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say he was an asshole. I think you were a little biased. But he definitely wasn’t as perfect as everyone thought he was. Half the time I thought he was only being nice to me so he could get into my pants.”
Heat pools in Johnny’s gut. He swallows heavily.
“For the record,” he says seriously, “I would be nice to you even if you never let me get in your pants.”
Ten’s grin turns wicked, and there’s a new glint in his eye that makes Johnny’s heart flutter.
“For the record,” Ten echoes, “that’s definitely not something you have to worry about.”
The air between them is thick now, but it’s not the tension of the past few weeks - this time, it feels like anticipation. Johnny finds that he can’t stop staring at Ten’s mouth, and the few feet of space between them on the couch feels unbearable.
“Ten,” Johnny breathes, suddenly desperate, “Ten, can I kiss you?”
Ten’s breath catches. He doesn’t say anything, just nods, eyes wide.
So Johnny does.
The first press of their lips together is chaste, and slightly awkward - Johnny hasn’t really moved from his side of the couch, just leaned over in his haste to get his mouth on Ten’s. Even still, though, Johnny’s stomach explodes with butterflies. This isn’t his first kiss, or, if he’s honest, his best kiss, objectively speaking. But there’s something about Ten that makes Johnny want to wrap himself up in the kiss and never leave. Maybe it’s the familiar scent of Ten’s coconut conditioner, or the way Ten sighs against Johnny’s mouth and brings his hand up to thumb at Johnny’s cheekbone as he slots their lips together again, and again, and again.
Maybe this is just what it feels like all the time, when you’re in love with the person you’re kissing.
Ten pushes at Johnny’s shoulder, and for a moment he thinks that Ten is trying to push him away. But Ten stays close as he moves, straddling Johnny’s lap and pushing him up against the back of the couch. Like this, their bodies are flush together, and Johnny’s mouth drops open in a groan as he clings to Ten’s hips. Ten swallows the sound, taking the opportunity to slide his tongue against Johnny’s as he claims Johnny’s mouth, and that - that takes everything to a whole new level.
Johnny almost can’t believe how good it feels, kissing Ten like this. He is acutely aware of all the points of contact of Ten’s torso against his, of Ten’s teeth as they nip at his bottom lip before he dives into another kiss, of Ten’s nails scratching at the nape of his neck. He’s also acutely aware of the noises he’s making, but he can’t make himself stop - he’s surrounded by Ten, drowning in him; and anyway, if the way Ten has started shifting his hips is any indication, he likes that Johnny isn’t quiet.
Ten nips Johnny’s lip and pulls back, laughing when Johnny whimpers at the loss of contact. He runs his hands down Johnny’s arms to where his hands are still clutching at Ten’s hips.
“You can touch me, you know,” he whispers. A part of Johnny’s mind notes that Ten sounds gratifyingly out of breath, but his thoughts come to a screeching halt when Ten guides his hands up so that they’re fitted around Ten’s waist. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted you to get those big hands on me.”
Johnny gasps, shocked and unbearably turned on, and Ten swallows the sound with a fierce kiss. Johnny just sits there and takes it for a few moments before Ten wriggles meaningfully, and Johnny attempts to utilize what’s left of his functioning brain power to move the way Ten wants him to.
He runs his hands over Ten’s stomach up to his chest, and at first it’s a little unusual not to find breasts there. But it’s Ten - even with his eyes closed Johnny knows what he looks like, has seen him shirtless dozens of times and in so many different contexts. Johnny runs his hand over the place he knows Ten’s tattoo is - a beautiful art deco crescent moon that Ten had designed himself. Johnny had been inordinately fascinated with it when Ten had first gotten it, and it’s only at this precise moment that he understands why.
The thought makes him laugh softly into the kiss. Ten smiles against his lips.
“What?” Ten says, breathing the words into Johnny’s mouth. “What is it?”
Johnny just shakes his head slightly - there will be time for explanations, revelations, long discussions later. For now he just says, “Your tattoo. I want to touch it.”
Johnny hears Ten’s breath hitch as he slides his hands down Ten’s body, slipping them under Ten’s shirt to rest on the bare skin of his waist.
“Can I?” he whispers, and he wonders if Ten can hear the reverence in his voice. “Please?”
“Yeah,” Ten whispers back, his voice shaky. He presses another kiss to Johnny’s lips. “Yeah, of course.”
Johnny slowly slides his hand up Ten’s torso, thumbing over his nipple as he makes his way over to the tattoo. The contact makes Ten whimper, and Johnny can’t help but feel a little smug at getting that reaction out of him. He’ll have to file that little bit of information away for later. For now, though, he lightly runs his fingertips over the scar underneath the tattoo, reveling in the way Ten shivers at his touch.
It hits him, suddenly, how lucky he is to be here, how lucky he is to be allowed to do this - to have Ten in his arms, his best friend, who puts up with his weird behavior and his less than desirable traits, who loves him despite it all.
Who loves him.
Johnny presses a lingering kiss to Ten’s lips before pulling back to just - look. Ten looks incredible, a beautiful flush on his skin that snakes down the part of his chest Johnny can see, his lips red and swollen from kissing. The smile he gives Johnny is incandescent - Johnny can only hope that his own expression is just as effective in conveying the profound happiness he’s feeling at the moment. He opens his mouth to speak.
Ten runs a hand through Johnny’s hair. “Yeah, baby?”
Johnny’s heart flutters at the pet name. He grins.
“I’m really glad I’m not homophobic.”
Ten stills - then throws his head back and laughs. Johnny grins wider, drinking in how pretty Ten is in his unrestrained joy. Johnny can’t wait to make him laugh like that forever.
“Me too, Johnny,” Ten says. He’s still smiling as he presses a kiss to Johnny’s lips. “Me too.”
so ten and i are together now. no we are not taking questions
wait did you skip econ so you could make out with ten??
because if so i’m not giving you my notes
you figured it out!
took them long enough
to jungwoo and kun: thank you
to jaehyun and doyoung: i hate you
after all the whining i had to listen to this is the thanks i get?
aww, leave him alone, guys
it’s not his fault he’s dense
it’s just heteronormativity
wait wait wait i want all the details
tell us everything
did you just make out or was there more
because i know that if i was ten
*jungwoo is typing…*
*doyoung has removed jungwoo from the chat*